The Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris) is one of over 500 of true shark species on earth, first documented in 1868.
The lemons shark is part of the Carcharhinidae family, also known collectively as requiem sharks. They
Have a flat head and a short, broad snout. The lemon shark has no interdorsal ridge, and both dorsal fins are roughly equal in size.
This guide will take you through the most common questions about this spectacular shark species
Let’s dive in.
What size is a Lemon Shark?
The lemons shark is a large shark species. Adult lemons sharks will mature to a length of around 8-10ft (2.5-3m).
Male lemon sharks typically reach a length of 7ft 4” (2.25m). Female lemons shark typically reaches a length of 8ft (2.4m). It takes the lemon shark around 12-13 years to mature to this size.
Lemon sharks weigh around 200-220lbs (90-100kg). Although the heaviest known lemon shark weighed in at 404lb (183.7kg)
What color is a Lemon Shark?
Lemon sharks have distinctive yellow skin. The color can vary from yellow-brown to dark brown or olive grey. The belly of the lemons shark is usually white or light yellow.
The lemon shark gets its name from its skin’s color and pitted appearance, which looks like a lemon fruit. This species is distinctive and easy to identify.
The lemon shark has a yellow color of skin to try and camouflage itself against the sand at the bottom of the water.
Are male and female Lemon Sharks different?
The main noticeable difference between male and female lemons sharks is that the females are larger.
You may also be able to tell a female lemon shark by bite marks on its fins. Males cause these by holding on to the females during mating season.
How fast is a Lemon Shark?
Lemons shark are typically a slow-moving species. They move on average at 1mph (1.5kph). This may speed up to around 1.5mph (2.5kph) when they are hunting for food.
Lemon sharks lay motionless on the sea floor and can appear to be ‘sleeping.’
The reason for this is unclear. One theory is that it prevents parasites from sticking to them and for shark suckers to clean their skin.
What sharks are similar to the Lemon shark?
Lemon sharks are pretty distinctive due to their coloring. Yet, other species are very similar, including the
- Bull shark
- Tiger shark
- Sicklefin lemon shark
The bull sharks and tiger sharks have a very similar shape to Lemon sharks. The only way to tell them apart is usually through their skin color. Lemon sharks are also a lot more docile than bull and tiger sharks.
The sicklefin lemon shark is identical to the more commonly known lemon shark. The main difference between these two species is the water they live in.
The lemon shark is found in and around the water of the Americas.
The sicklefin lemon shark is found in indo-pacific waters.
How long does a Lemon Shark live?
Lemon sharks have an average life span of 27 years. The typical adult age range is 25-30 years old.
Little is known about the actual life span of the lemon shark.
Studies have estimated around 44% of lemon sharks die as juveniles (under 13years).
Are Lemon sharks endangered?
The lemon shark is in the Vulnerable category by the IUCN assessment in 2020. It places them on their red list as a species at high risk of global extinction.
The exact population sizes are unknown. Yet, conservation tracking estimates lemon shark species have reduced by 30-49% over the last 50 years. However, this number is as high as 79% in some parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Are Lemon sharks rare?
Adult Lemon sharks are often rare to see. This is partially due to their habitats and seasonal behaviors. Juvenile lemon sharks are much easier to observe.
The declining population number is making them rarer to observe in the wild. A previous common sight for lemon sharks such as the Gulf of California and Brazil now only experience rare sightings.
Threats and Predators
Do Lemon Sharks have predators?
Adult lemon sharks have no known predators. They are apex predators when they have fully matured. This is likely due to lemon sharks being a large shark species.
Other shark species will attack smaller juvenile lemon sharks as they do not pose as much threat as adults.
The species will cannibalize the young of rival lemon sharks. This is to reduce competition for food and habitat.
What threats do Lemon Sharks face?
The more significant threat to lemon sharks is industrial overfishing in their range. Lemon sharks can often become trapped in fishing nets. This often results in habitat loss for the lemon sharks.
Lemon sharks are under threat from human hunting. One caught the sharks are used for their meat, skin, fins, or as a sporting trophy.
Ocean pollution from plastic or oil spills is another significant threat to lemon sharks. The lemon shark can also sustain life-threatening injuries from boats or leftover fishing equipment.
Where do Lemon Sharks live?
Lemons shark live along both coasts of the USA . On the east, this is from South Carolina down to Uruguay.
On the west, this is from the Gulf of California to northern Peru.
Their range includes coastal regions of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
The lemon shark species also live in the coastal water of western Africa, from Mauritania to Angola.
Lemon sharks are ground sharks. They live in shallow mangroves and shores of warm coastal regions.
Lemon sharks use nursery areas as a place they often return to. The location of these sites are the lemons shark was born and raised.
Do Lemon sharks migrate?
Adult lemon sharks will migrate. Often this is back to their nursery grounds to mate and raise their young.
The lemon sharks’ migratory behaviors are linked to climate and mating behaviors. They will often move to warmer coastal regions in the wintertime. They then return to their breeding grounds for spring.
Juvenile lemon sharks tend to stay in or near their nursery until they reach maturity.
Migrating lemon sharks will cross the ocean between the Americas and Africa. There is no set route to their migratory behaviors.
Diet and Foraging
What does a Lemon Shark eat in the wild?
Lemons shark are opportunistic eaters. This means they will eat species easily found on the sandy seafloor of their subtropical coastal habitats.
The lemon sharks diet consists of:
- Bony fish
Fish make up around 70-80% of the lemon sharks’ diet. Due to this, they are often considered piscivorous.
Fish are usually available in large numbers, making them an easy species to prey upon. They often use the name nursery grounds as the lemon shark.
Although the variety of food is opportunistic, they are quite picky eaters.
Lemon sharks eat more of a species when their numbers are more abundant. This benefits the fish species as the lemon shark won’t decimate when populations are already low.
Lemon sharks prefer slow-moving medium size fish as they can attack through a slow predator stalking behavior. Sick and injured fish are also a target for lemon sharks.
As well as active hunting, lemon sharks are known to scavenge dead animals and excrement on the sea bed.
When do Lemon shark eat?
Lemons shark feed mainly at night. They can do this using electroreceptor to find nearby prey. They will also join in a feeding frenzy when they detect blood and the sounds of struggling prey.
Lemon sharks will also feed during the day, typically at dawn and dusk.
How often do Lemon Sharks reproduce?
Lemon sharks have a biennial reproduction cycle. That means they have two fertile periods in a year, once in spring and once in summer.
The lemon shark will mate with various males through this time.
Although a shark will likely on have one litter per year due to the length of their gestational period.
How long are Lemon Sharks pregnant?
Lemons shark are pregnant for a period of 10-12 months.
Some of the eggs will be fertilized in the spring month, and some will be fertilized in the summer months. The fertilized eggs will have a shorter gestation period than those fertilized earlier in the year.
Do Lemon Shark Lay eggs?
Lemon sharks do not lay eggs they are a viviparous species. This means that the lemon shark grows their pups in the female uterus using a placenta for nutrients.
Lemon sharks will give birth to live shark pups.
How many babies do Lemon Sharks have?
Lemons shark will give birth to 4 to 18 pups in one litter.
An interbirth interval is required after each pregnancy to allow their eggs to mature and live to recover. This takes 1one year for lemon sharks.
This means that one pregnancy cycle for the lemon shark takes two years.
Consider a female that matures at around 13 years old on lives on average to 27. She will have a most around seven pregnancies in her lifetime.
Over her whole life, a female lemon shark will have around 100 pups.
When are Lemon Shark born?
Lemon sharks tend to give birth during the spring and summer months.
This ensures that prey population sizes are high and the weather is warmer. This will help their pups survive better than any other time of year.
Where do Lemon Sharks have their babies?
Lemon sharks have their babies in subtropical coastal regions. These are often known as nursery grounds.
The area where the lemon shark gives birth is essential as the species will stay there until they are mature. They will also often return as adults to the nursery grounds to mate and give birth. However, females are more likely to do this than males.
Nursery grounds such as mangroves improve the survival of the young by providing them with ideal conditions. The roots of the plants provide the baby lemon shark with hiding places from predators.
Do Lemon Shark mate for life?
Lemon sharks do not mate for life. They are a polyandrous species which means they can have several sexual partners each breeding season.
Lemon sharks are known to give birth to a litter of pups that are fathered by three or more different males.
Baby Lemon Shark
How big are baby Lemon sharks?
A baby lemon shark is around 20-30 inches (50-76cm) when they are born. That’s around 4-5 times smaller than they are at full adult size.
What do baby Lemon sharks eat?
Baby lemon sharks consume the same diet as adult sharks.
Do Lemon Shark care for their babies after birth?
Baby lemon sharks are left to fend for themselves once they are born. Neither the female nor male will provide any care for their young after birth.
The babies will need to find their own food and shelter for protection. This is why the selection of the nursery ground is so important to ensure the survival of the vulnerable young as much as possible.
Do Lemon Shark attack humans?
Lemon sharks can attack humans. However, there are only 10 recorded unprovoked lemon shark attacks. None of these have been fatal.
The species lives near humans, regularly encountering surfers and swimmers on the coast.
Despite the low attack rate, caution must be exercised around the lemon shark as they are a large predatory species.
Are Lemon Sharks aggressive?
Lemon sharks are known to be aggressive when mating or feeding. They can also attack the young of their competition.
When encountered by humans, they are typically friendly sharks. Companies will take tourists on ‘shark experience’ tours where you can walk amongst them in the shallow waters at the shore. However, these are typically young lemon sharks who would be naturally less aggressive.
Lemon sharks can get possessive of divers. They have been seen to display jealousy towards other sharks getting their attention.
Are lemon sharks social?
Lemon sharks are an extremely social species. They make friends and interact with them regularly.
A group of lemon sharks is called a shiver.
Socializing with others is a survival tactic as protection in number and sharing of food sources.
Yet lemon sharks will also interact well with others, even in captivity. They will share knowledge and learn by observing each other.
Although there are rules to who the lemon shark will socialize with. They usually only hang around with other lemon sharks of similar size. This is thought to protect them against predation from larger sharks.
What does a lemon shark tooth look like?
Lemon sharks have teeth that are smooth and slightly curved. The root is large, which helps them to hold on to prey and shake it around without risk of losing it. A lemon shark tooth is around 0.75 inches long (1.9cm).
Lemon sharks have 27-33 teeth on each jaw. They replace each set of teeth every 8-10 days.
Shark teeth are not considered bones.
Are lemon sharks blind?
Lemon sharks are not blind, but they have extremely poor vision.
As predators, lemon sharks have a vertical pupil with a visual streak in a horizontal position. Although not fully understood, it’s believed this helps the lemon shark see clearer in low light conditions and murky waters.
Lemon sharks rely on other senses such as touch, taste, smell, sound, and electroreception to navigate and find prey.
Can Lemon Shark smell blood?
Lemon sharks have a powerful sense of smell. They have been known to detect one part per 25 million parts of seawater. This equals 10 drops of blood in an average size public swimming pool.
Although Lemon sharks are attracted to blood they are more attracted to the smell of proteins. This is released into the water when prey is being killed.
Their sense of smell is much more potent and will alert them to nearby prey easier than their sight.