Lemon Shark

(Negaprion brevirostris)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in tropical coastal waters of the western Atlantic, eastern Pacific and Indo-Pacific oceans. They are usually found in shallow water (up to 275 feet deep) around coral reefs, mangrove forests, or estuaries.

Size: 6-10 feet long; up to 450 pounds

Wild Diet: Mollusks, fish, crabs, shrimp, seabirds, smaller sharks and rays

Predators: Humans and larger sharks

Lifespan: Unknown

Reproduction: Lemon sharks are viviparous, meaning that their young are born live. They are ready to mate around 6 years of age and usually mate in spring. After a 10-12 month gestation period, females return to nursing grounds to give birth to 4-17 pups. Pups remain in the nursing grounds, a shallow area of a few square miles, for several years.

Behavior: Lemon sharks are diurnal. When resting on the sea floor, they allow cleaner wrasses to clean parasites from their gills and skin. They will even stop the movement of their gills for up to two minutes to help the wrasses do their job.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Near Threatened

Lemon sharks are collected by commercial and recreational fisheries along the U.S. Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Though some fisheries commonly target this species to harvest its skin and meat, it is also frequently killed as bycatch (accidental catch). Sharks in general reproduce slowly, bear few young at a time, have a long gestation period, and swim great distances to find a mate. So it takes years for their populations to recover from overfishing.

Did you know?

  • There are over 400 species of shark in the world, ranging in size from the 8-inch dwarf lantern shark to the whale shark. Some believe that a whale shark can grow to be up to 65 feet long.
  • Sharks have many rows of teeth. When a front tooth comes loose and falls out, the tooth behind it moves up to take its place. Some sharks grow and lose tens of thousands of teeth in their lifetime.