Is it a Leopard, a Shark, or Both?

Have you ever heard of a cartilaginous fish that is 4-6 feet long, weighs about forty pounds, swims in the water, has spots like a leopard, but actually, is a shark? This creature’s common name is a leopard shark, and it belongs to the class of Chondrichthyes in the species of Triakis semifasciata. These sharks are found swimming in the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Eastern Northern Pacific, more specifically around the areas of the Gulf of California and Mexico.


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Despite having “shark” in their name, leopard sharks are usually harmless towards people. There have been very few attacks reported of a human being hurt by this fish. Additionally, they live quite a long life, swimming through about thirty years in the waters of the Pacific. These sharks also have very prominent features that can help spot them in the water. For example, the dark spots on its body are why it gets the term “leopard” in its name. Alongside these spots, leopard sharks do not have long snouts like some other sharks, but instead, the creatures have short snouts that give it an “innocent” look. However, their fins can paint an opposite, less innocent picture. The shark has a large dorsal fin, right above pectoral fins, as well as another large dorsal fin, and a final anal fin, which has a triangle-like shape and is the smallest out of all the fins.



Dark spots on a leopard shark

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Besides their unique dark spots on their yellow-like body color, the sharks are also very isolated animals. They like to “cause trouble” during the night, making them nocturnal. At this deadly hour, they like to swim around, trying to catch dinner at 3 A.M. Their long bodies allow for them to squeeze into various places in search for food. During the daytime, they enjoy moving their flexible bodies very much, and they even like to form schools, swimming through the intertidal zone with their friends, piked dogfish and smooth-hound sharks. What do these leopard sharks like to eat for dinner? Not only do they prey on other fish, which, like normal people, enjoy sleeping at this late hour, but they also like to consume crabs, shrimp, mollusks and crustaceans. Finally, leopard sharks are very tactic with their feeding as well. With their “friends,” they swim counter-clockwise  at the surface of the water, letting other prey, like anchovies, swim into their mouths in the clockwise direction. While being quite clever with their techniques, these sharks do, however, have to watch out for predators, such as the broadnose sevengill shark.










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Alongside their diets, leopard sharks have a unique reproduction cycle. Females are ovoviviparous. Laying many eggs at a time, these purplish-black colored eggs are then ground to the ocean’s floor by fibers. After the eggs hatch, the young sharks can swim about without their parents. However, these sharks are like human teenagers turning into adults. They can take up to ten plus years to reach full sexual maturity.


Leopard Shark Embryo

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In terms of “exciting” news about these creatures, these sharks may be innocent, but there has been one reported incident of it injuring a human. In 1955, a leopard shark attacked a diver in the waters of California, but fortunately, death was not the final result. Since then, very few attacks have been filed. In conclusion, leopard sharks are unfortunately occasionally consumed in meats or caught to be placed into aquariums, but they are still quite conserved in their well-known habitats. Even though they are not endangered and are mentioned as “Least Concern” according to the IUCN, the populations of the leopard shark do depend on conservation efforts, so that we can still see these beautiful “leopards”  swimming through our waters for countless more years to come.



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