The lemon shark stands out in a sea full of sharks due to its yellow color. Its scientific name is Negaprionbrevirostris. This shark first appeared in the science world in 1868.
The lemon shark is considered to be a very low-risk factor for humans for a couple of reasons. One reason is that the lemon shark prefers to remain in deep water where humans do not often venture. Although seen from the shorelines, there is not a lot of contact between lemon sharks and people.
The other reason is that they often hunt at night. Although there have been a few reports of lemon shark attacks, the lemon shark is not considered dangerous to humans.
Most of these sharks are found in the Atlantic Ocean, but a small population size also lives in the Pacific Ocean. This species of shark likes shallow coastal waters and also occupies areas by coral reefs, a ridge of rock in the sea formed by the growth and deposit of coral. They have even been seen swimming by docks!
A lemon shark is one of the larger species of shark, reaching lengths of 7-10 feet and weighing up to 200 pounds.
Most lemon sharks, as their name implies, are yellow in color. However, their color can vary. There have been instances of gray lemon sharks! Their bellies are a light yellowish color or even white. The yellow coloring common to this species is a form of camouflage, helping them blend into the sandy floors of the ocean.
The lemon shark has a stocky body with a flattened head and broad snout. Its teeth are curved, which prevents prey from slipping out. It also has two dorsal fins on its back that are often congruent or the same size and shape.
The lemon shark is a bottom dweller commonly found on sandy or bottom floors of the ocean. Their diet reflects the type of prey found in this same type of habitat. They are carnivores or meat-eaters and most commonly eat different types of fish and crustaceans, such as crabs and crayfish. After catching prey, the lemon shark will shake its head from side to side, ripping off pieces of meat to eat.
During the day, the lemon shark lies motionless on the ocean floor. Although the lemon shark may appear to be resting, it actually takes more energy to remain still than to be swimming. This is due to the extra work required to move water over the gills and help the shark breathe.
Fortunately, the blood of lemon sharks is specially adapted to retain oxygen. This allows the shark to remain still for long periods of time. Scientists believe this allows small reef fish to remove parasites found on the body of lemon sharks.
Another special adaptation of a lemon shark involves its eyes. A lemon shark is believed to have very weak eyesight when compared to other sharks and often spends its time in murky water. They are effective hunters because they use electroreceptors that pick up electrical fields in the water.
However, their eyes, like human eyes, contain both rods and cones, which allow them to see some colors and shapes.
Lemon sharks are viviparous and give birth to live free swimming babies called pups. Female lemon sharks carry the pups from 10-12 months and deliver litters of anywhere from 4 to 17 at one time. Scientists believe female lemon sharks take a year off after giving birth before carrying another litter.
Lemon sharks deliver in shallow water “nursery grounds,” where the young lemon sharks remain until they are bigger. The juvenile lemon shark reaches adulthood around 10-15 years of age and will then enter deeper water.
Lemon sharks are caught both commercially and recreationally. Their meat and fins are used for human consumption. They are also very popular as attractions in aquariums. Lemon sharks’ habitat is also threatened. For these reasons, the lemon shark is listed as a Near Threatened species.
Most of the sharks seen in aquariums are lemon sharks. Unlike most other species of sharks, the lemon shark is very tolerant of being held in captivity. For this reason, they are also one of the most studied shark species.