A-z - Animals

lemon shark

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The lemon shark is a vulnerable species commonly found in subtropical waters. They return to the same nursery site to reproduce and have electroreceptors that help them catch fish. They are one of the few social sharks.

5 Lemon Shark Facts

  1. Nursery: These sharks return to the same location each year to breed. Generally, it is considered the place where adults are born.
  2. Lives in groups: This species is one of the few sharks that lives in groups—at least occasionally. They engage in many group behaviors, such as courtship.
  3. Non-Threat: These sharks pose no threat to humans. Only ten bites were reported, and none were serious.
  4. Long Reproductive Cycle: These sharks have a long reproductive cycle. Females take a year to gestate and then another year to get ready to conceive.
  5. Notable Sharks: Probably the most famous shark population is the lemon shark population off the coast of the Bimini Islands.

taxonomic name

Lemon sharks are part of the genus Negaprion. The genus contains two species, one of which is the lemon shark. Another species of shark is the sicklefin lemon shark of the Indo-Pacific region. These two sharks are very similar, although they inhabit different areas.

Lemon sharks are also classified as requiem sharks and contain 60 species and 12 genera. These sharks are migratory and give birth to live pups.

They belong to the order Sharkia, which includes more than 270 species, making it the largest order of sharks. These sharks have two dorsal fins, an anal fin and five gill slits.

lemon shark appearance

As the name suggests, lemon sharks have a yellowish tint. This color helps them blend into the sandy floors of their coastal habitats, which prevents them from being eaten by larger sharks and helps them catch fish.

Typically, these sharks grow between 7.9 and 10.2 feet. They usually weigh about 200 pounds as adults. However, some sharks can grow even larger. For example, fishermen have caught lemon sharks weighing more than 400 pounds and measuring more than 11.3 feet in length.

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Additionally, the heads of these sharks are flattened. Their short, broad snouts help them catch fish in coastal waters. Usually, they have two dorsal fins of equal size.

Like most lemon sharks, they have electroreceptors on their heads and dorsal fins. These receptors help them detect fish. Because these sharks hunt primarily at night, they must find prey by means other than sight.

big lemon shark
Lemon sharks don't just rely on vision, they have electroreceptors on their head and dorsal fin that help them detect fish — that is, food.

© Greg Amptman/Shutterstock.com

Distribution, Population and Habitat

Although these sharks are only found in tropical waters, they can be found in waters from New Jersey to southern Brazil. Sometimes, you can even spot them in the western Atlantic. Lemon sharks live in the eastern Pacific Ocean, such as Baja California and Ecuador.

Typically, you'll find lemon sharks in the same areas as their prey. They prefer coral reefs, enclosed bays, estuaries and the like. They can only live at a depth of about 300 meters.

Technically, lemon sharks can live in freshwater. However, humans rarely find them in fresh water such as rivers. Some experts believe they are not great hunters in more enclosed areas such as rivers.

Typically, these sharks spend most of their lives near the continental shelf. However, migrating sharks can be seen in open water.

Scientists have delved into the habitat selection process of lemon sharks because they are one of the few social sharks. They prefer warmer waters as it benefits their metabolism. However, they also prefer areas where large sharks are absent, thereby reducing the risk of being eaten.

predator and prey

Lemon sharks are relatively small, so their prey usually reflect their size.

What do lemon sharks eat?

Unlike other sharks, lemon sharks stay in enclosed areas. As a result, scientists can easily figure out their diets because they know exactly what fish to find in each shark's range. Mostly, these sharks eat fish. They feed primarily at night, using electroreceptors to locate prey.

However, the researchers have also observed lemon sharks eating crustaceans and similar animals. Occasionally, larger lemon sharks prey on smaller lemon sharks. For this reason, smaller sharks often live in shallower waters where larger sharks cannot be found. As sharks get bigger, they swim to deeper waters because there is less chance of predation.

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When conditions are favorable, lemon sharks are very particular about what they eat. They show a strong preference for certain species and may even colonize an area due to the abundance of that species. Sharks generally only eat each other when other prey is scarce. Typically, lemon sharks feed exclusively on slower, easier-to-catch fish.

However, the exact type of food will depend on the region, as fish species do vary within the species' range. For example, in the Bahamas, lemon sharks prefer parrotfish and mojarras. These fish use camouflage rather than fleeing quickly from predators. Therefore, it is easier for lemon sharks to catch them.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Lemon sharks have a unique breeding process, using lactation grounds. These sharks mate only at special mating sites, chosen for their abundance of food and the likelihood of their young surviving. When it's time to give birth, the females return to the waters where they were born.

Typically, lemon shark pups spend several years in this nursery area before venturing into deeper waters.

These sharks give birth to live pups, with the mother transferring nutrients to the fetus via the yolk sac placenta. Therefore, the way these sharks produce young is very similar to the way humans produce babies.

Fertilization happens internally. However, it is not surprising that females receive breeding from multiple males. In some species, this happens because it provides a genetic advantage to the offspring. However, lemon shark females are apparently only breeding with multiple males for convenience.

It takes a long time for a female to give birth to a single cub. First, it takes a year for the female to lay her eggs and yolk bag. Then, after breeding, gestation takes another year. As a result, lemon sharks can only have one litter of pups every two years. Typically, there are no more than 18 pups per litter.

Also, lemon sharks take a long time to mature. Females are not ready to breed until they are 12-16 years old. However, men do go through puberty earlier than women.

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Lemon Sharks in Fishing and Cooking

Both commercial and recreational fishers target lemon sharks throughout their range. Humans value this species for its meat, fins and hide. In some cultures, their meat is considered a delicacy. However, they are not eaten very often due to their high price.

Still, such high prices have led to overfishing in some areas, especially along the western North Atlantic and eastern Pacific coasts. In these areas, lemon shark populations are in decline. Today, the species is generally rated as Vulnerable.


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While these sharks may be rare in some areas, they are considered vulnerable. So many of them stayed, and they weren't as rare as other species. Usually, they hang out near the continental shelf because they prefer shallower waters. Therefore, you may see them more often than other sharks.

Petting wild animals is never recommended. Although lemon sharks are not aggressive, they will bite if they feel threatened. Therefore, it is not recommended that you try to touch one of them. As a shark, lemon sharks do have very large teeth for biting and snipping. Therefore, if you see sharks in the wild, we recommend that you give these sharks the proper space.

Lemon sharks do not attack humans very often. Only 10 have been reported historically. Furthermore, none of the bites were serious and did not result in death. For this reason, experts generally consider lemon sharks to be harmless.

Won't. These sharks are not known for being aggressive and rarely bite humans. Because they live in family groups, they are not territorial. Although these sharks are large, they only eat fish and usually do so at night. Therefore, the chances of them accidentally biting are fairly low.

These sharks have a yellowish tint that blends in with the sandy bottoms of the tropical oceans they inhabit. Hence, they are named lemon sharks because of this color.