The lemon shark is better known as Negaprion brevirostris in the scientific community. It is only one of the over 1,000 species of shark you can find across the planet. Because of potentially declining population levels, the lemon shark is officially rated “Near Threatened.”
Characteristics and Appearance
At birth, lemon sharks measure about 20 to 30 inches long. Until they reach adulthood, the pups remain in their nursing grounds with their litter. They can have anywhere from four to seventeen members.
Because lemon sharks are sexually dimorphic, you can tell if a particular shark is female or male simply from its appearance. Male and female lemon sharks are similar in appearance. Still, a minor distinction makes each sex identifiable at a look.
Dimensions: lbs. and in.
In adulthood, female lemon sharks can reach lengths of 94 to 96 inches. Males are often about 90 inches. However, individual lemon sharks can be longer than these averages. For example, some of them can reach almost 120 inches. The average weight ranges from 406 to 551 pounds for both sexes.
Physical Characteristics and Color
Lemon sharks’ skin is olive to yellow-brown, and their underbellies are light yellow. That is whence they earn the name “lemon sharks.” They don’t have any distinguishing features on their skin.
One of the lemon sharks’ most identifying qualities aside from their coloration is their dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin is positioned on the mid-back, and the second is closer to the tail. While the second fin is shorter than the first, they have the same triangular shape.
The lemon shark’s snout is another eye-catching feature. The snout of a lemon shark is narrower than the shark’s mouth because it is rounded at the tip.
The Length of Life and the Number of Offspring
Lemon sharks have an average lifespan of 27 years in the wild, but they have been known to live well into their 30s. They practice polyandry—female lemon sharks take on numerous male partners in their lifetimes. Scientists believe female lemon sharks preserve sperm from their many mates. They also believe they have these mixed sperm compete simultaneously for a position in an egg. Male lemon sharks deposit sperm by biting the front fins of females and then inserting their claspers into the cloacas.
Once a female has conceived a litter, she will gestate for 10 to 12 months before swimming to a shallow nursery ground and birthing her pups live. The puppies will dwell on these grounds for 2 to 3 years or when they turn about 3 feet long. At 12 or 13, kids begin to reach their full potential. Young lemon sharks can and will seek their prey.
A lemon shark’s reproductive cycle is primarily centered around spring and summer. Female otters return to the same nursery grounds each year to give their young a year off between litters.
When lemon sharks mature, they must be introduced to adult waters. However, scientists have no idea how this process works. However, experts know lemon shark pups will linger near their birthing sites for years after leaving the surrounding area.
Lemon sharks live in oceanic seas no deeper than 188 feet. Mangroves, reefs, and docks are all good places to find them. These locations are favorable for female lemon sharks to give birth to their offspring.
Though lemon sharks are predominantly ocean species, they have wandered into freshwater places. An example is river mouths. However, they do not seem to go very far into these waterscapes.
Do Lemon Sharks have a home?
You can locate the lemon shark anywhere along the world’s coasts where there are coastal waters. They are most populous in the Gulf of Mexico, the West Indies, and the Caribbean. The eastern United States, the Mexican peninsula, and the Brazilian coast have sizable populations. On the west coast of Africa, you can even locate them.
Food and Diet
In their natural habitat, lemon sharks hunt by swimming along the bottom of the ocean. As a result, the amount of food they consume in a single meal can vary widely. Also, the amount of time it takes to digest their food differs from animal to animal.
Lemon sharks eat a variety of different things.
Lemon sharks will devour all sorts of sea creatures, including insects. On the other hand, Lemon sharks have a particular fondness for fish and mollusks. Some of their typical targets include:
- Crabs that are brown in color
- Eagle rays
In addition, baby lemon sharks are known to be eaten by prawns and shore crabs. Furthermore, lemon shark adults have been known to consume their own young.
Threats and Predators
Nature does not toy with the lemon shark. Even though they suffer various dangers, they hold a prominent position in the food chain.
Threats from Human Beings
People are a threat to lemon sharks, even though the lemon is not yet considered “Threatened.” Humans respect this species for its gastronomic, medicinal, and research worth. When people go hunting in these places too far, we risk overhunting the lemon shark.
Because of human activities, lemon sharks are also being harmed indirectly. For instance, mangroves are a huge lemon shark habitat being endangered by human agricultural and industrial growth. Lemon sharks can also become entangled in nets used by commercial fishermen, harming their survival chances. This tragic fact remains even if these fisheries are not purposefully killing lemon sharks.
Climate Change and Global Warming
Despite their dominance in the water, Lemon sharks are not immune to the effects of climate change. Specifically, they confront major issues when it comes to habitat.
Coral reefs are one of the lemon sharks’ preferred habitats for living and mating. They are being bleached and destroyed by climate change. As coral reefs disappear, so do lemon sharks. This fact means they also lose an area to breed.
Climate change also threatens to harm mangroves. Lemon shark populations could be endangered if this tendency continues, just as it has been with the degradation of reefs.
There are no known predators of the adult lemon shark. Some other shark species will hunt on newborn lemon sharks, but those same species will not pursue adults.
Because of the cannibalization of its young, one of the lemon shark’s greatest predators may be itself.
Threats from Other Sources
Lemon sharks serve as hosts for various parasites, including flukes and tapeworms. These parasites do not constitute a serious threat to lemon sharks as a species. Individuals whom parasitic species have chosen as hosts are in danger of damage or worse.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission forbids the taking of lemon sharks in Florida’s waterways by any means. Any lemon shark that gets onto a hook needs to be released promptly. It’s either by removing the hook from the shark or by cutting the shark free. Whichever method would release the shark quickest is used. This rule was put into effect in 2010 in Florida.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists the lemon shark as “Near Threatened.” They cite falling population levels as a possible hazard to the species’ future.
Fun Facts About Lemon Sharks
People throughout the world have named the lemon shark for its unique skin. Intriguingly, the German language has two terms for the lemon shark: “zitronenhai” (“lemon shark”) and “kurznasenhai” (“short-snout shark”). The lemon shark is also called the “Tiburon Galano” (literally, “gallant shark”) in Spanish.
Although lemon sharks are deadly predators among aquatic life, they offer virtually little threat to people. As of 2011, researchers had documented only 10 incidents of lemon sharks attacking humans. None of these cases were deadly.
Lemon sharks have a symbiotic association with connected remoras. They are commonly known as sharksuckers or otherwise known as sharksuckers. During feeding, the remoras cling to the lemon sharks’ bodies and clean up the waste they leave behind. On the other hand, Lemon sharks benefit from a deep skin cleansing that keeps them healthy and free of illness.
While mother lemon sharks handle most parenting, father sharks will get involved after the young are born.
Lemon sharks tend to travel and live alone.
They are active most of all in the early morning and evening.