The leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) is a species of houndshark, family Triakidae, found along the Pacific coast of North America from the U.S. state of Oregon to Mazatlán in Mexico. Typically measuring 1.2–1.5 m (3.9–4.9 ft) long, this slender-bodied shark is immediately identifiable by the striking pattern of black saddle-like markings and large spots over its back, from which it derives its common name. Large schools of leopard sharks are a common sight in bays and estuaries, swimming over sandy or muddy flats or rock-strewn areas near kelp beds and reefs. They are most common near the coast, in water less than 4 m (13 ft) deep. Harmless to humans, the leopard shark is caught by commercial and recreational fisheries for food and the aquarium trade. This species is mostly fished in the waters off California where, after a period of population decline in the 1980s, new fishing regulations in the early 1990s reduced harvesting to sustainable levels. The leopard shark occurs in the cool to warm-temperate continental waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, from Coos Bay, Oregon to Mazatlán, Mexico, including the Gulf of California. It favors muddy or sandy flats within enclosed bays and estuaries, and may also be encountered near kelp beds and rocky reefs, or along the open coast. Numbers have been known to gather near discharges of warm effluent from power plants. Leopard sharks generally swim close to the bottom and are most abundant from the intertidal zone to a depth of 4 m (13 ft), though they may be found as deep as 91 m (299 ft). The dorsal color pattern of the leopard shark gives it its common name. The leopard shark has a moderately stout body, with a short, rounded snout. There are well-developed, triangular flaps of skin in front of the nares. The eyes are large and oval, with a nictitating membrane (a protective third eyelid). The line of the mouth is strongly curved. There are furrows at the corners of the mouth extending onto both jaws, with those on the lower jaw almost long enough to meet at the midline.[3] The tooth rows number 41–55 in the upper jaw and 34–45 in the lower jaw; each tooth has a slightly oblique, smooth-edged cusp in the center and 1–2 small cusplets on either side. These teeth are arranged into a flat, “pavement”-like surface with overlapping ridges. The coloration is unique, consisting of prominent black “saddles” and large black spots running along the back, on a silvery to bronzy gray background. Adult sharks often have more spots and saddles with lighter centers compared to juveniles. The underside is whitish and plain. The average length of a leopard shark is 1.2–1.5 m (3.9–4.9 ft). Rarely males may grow to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) and females 1.8 m (5.9 ft), and there is a record of an exceptional female that measured 2.1 m (6.9 ft) long. The heaviest known leopard shark weighed 18.4 kg (41 lb).

leopard_shark.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/21 19:45 by grinder
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