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March Elasmobranch of the Month: Lemon Shark

Written by Sunna Saeed




Lemon Shark

Negaprion brevirostris


Well, when life gives you lemon (sharks) . . . 






Key Features & Appearance                                              

As you might have guessed, lemon sharks are named for the yellow hue of their skin, which helps them blend into their sandy habitats. They are relatively large sharks, ranging from 8 to 10 feet in length. While most sharks have smaller second dorsal fins, the lemon shark’s second dorsal fin is nearly as large as the first. With a short snout and a flattened head, they are particularly recognizable sharks. 





                                               

Habitat & Distribution

Lemon sharks are found in the northwest and eastern Atlantic Ocean, as well as the north Pacific Ocean. They typically inhabit tropical and shallow waters at depths of up to 92 meters. Their favorite spots include coral reefs and coastal areas like estuaries and mangroves. During the day, lemon sharks tend to remain in deeper water. However, they behave more boldly at night, occasionally being spotted by piers and docks. 






Diet

Their diet mainly consists of fish. Regardless, they still love to feast on a variety of other food. Some of their favorites include crustaceans, mollusks, and smaller sharks. They have even been known to eat seabirds! 


Reproduction

As a viviparous species, lemon sharks give birth to live young. Embryos develop for 12 months before females give birth in the spring or summer. Just one litter can consist of 17 pups! The pups are connected to their mother with an umbilical cord, which they break free from at birth.


Lemon shark pups are born in shallow sandy nurseries, where they remain sheltered from predators for years. Female lemon sharks are known to return to the place they were born to give birth to their pups.


Threats

Like countless other shark species, lemon sharks face the threat of becoming bycatch from commercial fishing practices. While they are not direct targets of the fishing industry, they can be targets for the international shark fin market. Additionally, their coastal habitat makes them particularly vulnerable to habitat loss from human development.


Status 

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), lemon sharks are considered vulnerable. In recent years, their numbers have been rapidly decreasing, especially because of the loss of coastal habitats. 


Fun Fact

Did you know that lemon sharks are incredibly social creatures? Although we tend to view sharks as solitary animals, this particular species forms groups based on their size and sex.








Make sure to also check out PROJECT LEMON AID, our research project in

Turks and Caicos.







Works Cited

“Lemon Shark.” Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission, myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/sharks/lemon-shark/


“Lemon Shark.” Ocean Conservancy, oceanconservancy.org/wildlife-factsheet/lemon-shark/



“Lemon Shark.” Save Our Seas Foundation, saveourseas.com/worldofsharks/species/lemon-shark


“Lemon Sharks ~ Marinebio Conservation Society.” MarineBio Conservation Society, 12 July 2023, www.marinebio.org/species/lemon-sharks/negaprion-brevirostris/.


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