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
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