Leopard Shark

Leopard Shark The Leopard Shark (triakis semifasciata) is conspicuously covered with dark saddles and splotches. The dorsal surface of the animal varies in coloration from silver to a bronzed gray. The ventral surface of the animal is lighter and sometimes white.

The leopard shark has a relatively broad and short snout. The prominent rounded dorsal fin of this shark originates over the inner margins of its pectoral fins. The second dorsal fin is pointed and averages about three-quarters the size of the first dorsal fin. The anal fin is diminutive in comparison to the leopard shark's second dorsal fin. The pectoral fins of the leopard shark are rather broad and roughly triangular in shape. The upper lobe of the tail is notched and elongated.

Leopard sharks can reach lengths of up to 7 feet (2.13 meters), but it is rare to find an individual larger than 6 feet (1.83 meters). The average size of an adult leopard shark is between 50 and 60 inches (120cm to 150 cm). Pups are born at a size of 8 to 9 inches (0.20 to 0.23 meters). The sharks reach maturity at a size of 3 to 3.5 feet (0.91 to 1.07 meters).

The leopard shark is a strong swimmer and it often forms large nomadic schools that sometimes include brown smooth-hounds (Mustelus henlei), gray smooth-hounds (Mustelus californicus), and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias).

Leopard sharks have a relatively narrow range, found in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Oregon to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Large populations occur in San Francisco Bay, and other large estuaries.

The leopard shark is most commonly found in sandy or muddy bays and estuaries either at or near the bottom. The shark is most commonly encountered in 20 feet (6.1 meters) of water or less, but has been sighted up to 300 feet (91.4 meters) deep. Leopard sharks seem to prefer cool and warm temperate waters.