You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” But what do you do when life hands you a Lemon Shark? Observe him.
A Shark By Any Other Name Is Not A Lemon Shark
Have you ever heard of a Lemon Shark? If you think that they got their name is due to their lemon-yellow color, you’d be right; pretty much. The Lemon Shark, or Negaprion brevirostris, is a pale, yellow-brown or olive colored shark with no distinguishing markings on their smooth skin, which helps them camouflage themselves in the sandy shore areas where they enjoy foraging for meals. Fortunately for us, they do their foraging at night so the chances of bumping into a lemon shark is slim. However, since they do spend their time in the shallows where most beach dwellers go, they are considered a very minimal threat to humans. There have been only 22 attacks ever reported and none of those were fatalities.
Lemon Sharks are so well-known by their yellowy color that every country calls them as such; they are lemon or yellow no matter where you go.
- In France, they are requin citron
- In Spain, Tiburon galano
- In Italy, squalo limone
- In Portugal, tubarao-limao
- In Mexico, Limon
- In Brazil, Cacao-limao
- In the Netherlands, citroenhaii
Lemon Shark Facts: The Happy Habitat
Lemons love the warm waters of North and South America in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In the Atlantic, they have been seen as far north as New Jersey and as far south as Southern Brazil, with activity in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. There are also Lemon Sharks found along Senegal and the Ivory Coast of Africa. In the Pacific waters, Lemons are found from the Gulf of California and Baja down to Ecuador. They forage near coral reefs, mangroves, sounds, and bays and sometimes can be found near the opening of rivers. They do not forage too deep into freshwater areas. They have been known to congregate near fishing piers and docks during the night, but disperse back to deeper waters during the day.
No, They Don’t Eat Lemons
Since the Lemon Shark is one of the bigger fish in the shark family, they eat more than just little fishes and plankton. With lengths that can reach up to 10 feet (3.05 meters) and weights that can top out at 200lbs (90.71 kgs), it takes a lot more than that to give them nourishment. Though several types of fish such as catfish, mullets, cowfish, and croakers, are on the menu, they also indulge in:
- Sea birds
- Small sharks
Some believe that the Lemon Shark has better eyesight to visualize the colors of their prey due to a bend in their retinas, but this is still a debated topic. We do know, however, that because of their larger size, they have a very short list of predators. Some types of larger sharks might eat young Lemons, but that’s where the ocean hierarchy ends. The biggest threat to a Lemon Shark is actually us. Unfortunately, commercial and recreational fishermen target this shark for their fins (for soup), skin (for leather), and meat. Though they are classified as near threatened on the IUCN Red List, they are not currently at risk of extinction. Still, if this practice keeps up, the lemon shark population could soon be in decline.
Fun And Interesting Lemon Shark Facts
- They can live up to 27 years in the wild
- Females give birth to live babies
- Pregnancy lasts for 10-12 months and produces 4-13 babies
- They were first discovered in 1868
- Their bellies are white
- Spending the day motionless on the ocean floor is a favorite pastime
- Small reef fish remove parasites from the skin on the lemon shark
- They have electroreceptors in their head to detect marine creatures
- There are 2 dorsal fins on their backs, both equal in size
- Teeth are curved instead of straight, allowing them to grab onto slippery creatures easier
- Migration can cover large distances just to find a mate
- Mating season takes place in the spring
- They are loners, but will form small groups at times
These sharks actually do very well in captivity, often building a complex social support system and a hierarchy based on gender and size. They can live for a very long time in captivity and are, in fact, one of the most studied sharks of any species on the planet. With so many opportunities to observe their behavior, scientists have learned much about sharks in general thanks to learning from the lemons. There is a lot that has been learned about their reproductive habits. The mother will travel to shallow waters to give birth so that her pups have a good chance for survival. After the birth, the mother leaves them to care for themselves. This might be sad to us, but it’s very natural to the Lemon Shark.
Are You Lovin’ The Lemon?
Now that you have a few more Lemon Shark facts under your belt, you can understand why they are one of the most popular species of shark out there. If the beautiful yellow color isn’t enough to catch your eye, their size will. And if you ever have the opportunity to observe one; take it. You might just learn a bit more about these yeasty yellows.