This week’s Featured Species is one of the most stunning shark species. The lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) is a large bodied shark, reaching up to 11 feet (3.35 m) when full grown, commonly found in the tropics and subtropics, especially near Florida and the Bahamas (Skomal, 2016). These sharks also have two large, equally sized dorsal fins, with the second dorsal fin directly above the large anal fin (Tricas, et al., 1997).
But what makes the lemon shark an exceptionally beautiful shark, is their yellow-bronze skin and yellow eyes. The brilliant color is apparent along the dorsal side of the lemon shark, fading into a cream or white colored belly (Skomal, 2016; Parker, 2008). Their yellow-bronze skin allows the lemon shark to camouflage themselves against the sandy bottom while cruising for prey. However, they are adequate hunters at both the surface and near the sea floor (Parker, 2008).
The lemon shark has a fantastic set of teeth evolved to hunting and catching slippery prey items like fishes. The teeth of the lemon shark vary in morphology depending on their location within the jaw. The front teeth in both the upper and lower jaws have a tall, narrow cusp with a broad base. These teeth are non-serrated and have a slight hook that are best for piercing and holding slippery prey. As the teeth move further back in either jaw, the morphology begins to shift to a shorter, broader cusp with a more defined hook. These teeth help to pull prey into the lemon shark’s mouth (Parker, 2008).
Much of what we know about sharks, including studies on shark personality, daily energy budgets, breeding biology, diet and feeding behaviors, learning abilities, social behaviors, and a plethora of habitat loss studies comes from Bimini Sharklab in the Bahamas (Stafford-Deitsch, 2015). The lemon shark is one of the few species that do well under human care, making them a perfect study species for researchers. However, it must be noted that while we’ve learned a lot from lemon sharks, we have to be careful about making generalizations about other species.
Adult lemon sharks are generally solitary individuals with a home range reaching 20. square miles (50 square km) or more (Skomal, 2016). However, juveniles have a far smaller home range of only 1/2 square miles (1 square km) (Skomal, 2016). Juveniles are commonly found cruising the shallow waters among mangrove forests. These areas serve as a nursery, sheltering small sharks from predators and offering abundant food sources (Heupel, Carlson, & Simpfendorfer, 2007). Human activity in the tropics have threatened these nursery habitats and the young lemon sharks (Ward-Paige et al., 2010). Hotel development on Bimini has severely threatened juveniles by removing crucial habitats (Jennings, Gruber, Franks, Kessel, & Robertson, 2008). Despite localized threats, the lemon shark listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN, as global population estimates are unknown (Sundström, 2015).
I’m delighted to announce a partnership with the wonderfully talented Julius Csotonyi! Julius creates stunning shark coloring sheets that are fun and educational for all ages. From time to time you’ll see Julius’ work featured right here and on my other social media platforms! You can find more coloring sheets in the store! You are welcomed to download these beautiful sheets and enjoy them with family and friends.
Authority: Poey, 1868
Family: Carcharhinidae (Requiem sharks); 59+ species
Length: Maximum 11.0 ft (3.4 m)
Weight: 400 lbs (181 kg)
Habitat: Shallow coastal waters of coral reefs, keys, mangroves, bays and river mouths
Depth: Shallow waters to 300 ft (92 m)
Reproduction: Placental Viviparity
Gestation: 10 – 12 months
Litter Range: 4 – 17 pups
Home Range: Tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic and eastern Pacific
Diet: bony fishes and crustacean invertebrates
IUCN Status: Near Threatened; occasionally taken in fisheries; population estimates unknown
(Sundström, 2015; Skomal, 2016; Parker, 2008)
Thanks for checking into this week’s Featured Species segment. If you missed last week be sure to check out the Nurse Shark. As always please let me know what species you’d love to see featured! Comments and questions welcomed!
The new Ocean For Sharks Shop is open! There’s handmade ocean inspired plush animals, canvas paintings, and of course my children’s book, Winifred the Wondrous Whale Shark, available in print and PDF. Be sure to stop by. Remember proceeds benefit shark research and conservation with a donation to Project AWARE!
Remember you can make a difference for marine ecosystems by calling your Congress man or woman and tell them that you care about the quality of our waters! Sharks, rays, and other marine organisms cannot speak or be represented in Congress. They need your voice. Get involved and stand up for sharks. Until next time finatics!
Featured Image Source
Whelan, C. (Author). (2016 March 22). Lemon Shark [Digital Image]. Retrieved from https://www.thegreatprojects.com/
Heupel, M. R., Carlson, J. K., & Simpfendorfer, C. A. (2007). Shark nursery areas: Concepts, definition, characterization and assumptions. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 337, 287–297.
Jennings, D. E., Gruber, S. H., Franks, B. R., Kessel, S. T., & Robertson, A. L. (2008). Effects of large-scale anthropogenic development on juvenile lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) populations of Bimini, Bahamas. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 83(4), 369–377.
Parker, S. (2008). The encyclopedia of sharks (2nd ed.). Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books Ltd.
Skomal, G. (2016). The Shark Handbook: The Essential Guide for Understanding the Sharks of the World. (2nd ed.). Kennebunkport, ME: Cider Mill Press.
Stafford-Deitsch, J. (2015). Shark Doc, Shark Lab- The Life and World of Samuel Gruber. (M. Scholl, Ed.) (1st ed.). Geneva, Switzerland: Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF).
Sundström, L.F. 2015. Negaprion brevirostris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T39380A81769233.
Tricas, T. C., Deacon, K., Last, P., McCosker, J. E., Walker, T. I., & Taylor, L. (1997). The Nature Company Guides: Sharks and Rays. (L. Taylor, Ed.). Hong Kong: The Nature Company, Time Life Books.
Ward-Paige, C. A., Mora, C., Lotze, H. K., Pattengill-Semmens, C., McClenachan, L., Arias-Castro, E., & Myers, R. A. (2010). Large-scale absence of sharks on reefs in the greater-Caribbean: A footprint of human pressures. PLoS ONE, 5(8).