Lemon sharks are a member of the Requiem shark family, though they have very different biological and behavioral characteristics than their cousins. These unusual sharks are sharks are commonly seen by humans because of their preferred habitats, so they are the most studied of all species of sharks. With the abundance of research, marine biologists known a lot about these amazing sharks. Here are ten fast lemon shark facts that scientists have discovered about these incredible creatures:
1. Lemon Sharks Get Their Name For Their Skin Color:
Lemon sharks have an unusual yellow-brown coloring that resembles a lemon. As shallow-water seafloor hunters, their unique yellow skin helps camouflage them against the sandy seafloor. This coloring helps them go undetected so they can quickly launch and attack prey before they even noticed they are there.
2. Lemon Sharks Have Unusual Habitat Preferences:
Lemon sharks live in subtropical waters along the coastlines, though they will occasionally venture out into open ocean water at depths of 300 ft (92 m). They mostly live in mangroves, coral reefs, and river mouths where they can hunt a variety of prey. They also thrive in brackish waters and can swim upstream into freshwater rivers, though only for short periods as they do not have the evolutionary adaptations to stay buoyant in fresh water for long periods. Their habitat choices are primarily why it is common for humans to see them in the ocean because they tend to populate the areas around tourist beaches.
3. Lemon Sharks Have Unique Biological Traits:
Lemon Sharks are average sized and tend to only grow to 7.9-10.2 ft (2.4-3.1 m) in total length. They weigh on averages 200 lb (90 kg) by adulthood. The largest recorded Lemon Shark was 11.3 ft (3.43 m) weighing a hefty 405 lb (183.7 kg). They have a flat head, broad snout, and stocky, muscular bodies. They have two dorsal fins that are nearly the same size, which is particularly unusual among any shark species.
4. Lemon Sharks Unusual Eyes:
They have very poor eyesight so they rely primarily on electroreceptivity to hunt prey and navigate the waters. However, Lemon Sharks tend to live in murky waters, so they have adapted unique eyes to help them see. Like humans, the eyes of the Lemon Shark contain both rods and cones which help them pick up shapes and colors. They have a special retina that reduces glare and helps them see very light wavelengths in the yellow-green color spectrum.
5. Lemon Sharks Are Impressive Hunters:
Lemon Sharks are nocturnal predators and are actually surprisingly picky eaters. The prefer prey that is slow and easy to capture like parrotfish, mojarras, and crustaceans. Lemon Sharks hunt for prey using electroreceptors in their head. Once they’ve picked up an electrical pulse from the movement of a potential victim, they will stalk their prey until the opportune time to attack. Unlike other sharks that will grab chunks of prey, lemon sharks will bite at their prey until they get a good firm grip then will shake their head side to side until they tear its flesh.
6. Lemon Sharks Often Hunt Together:
Scientists have observed what is known as “feeding frenzy” behavior among Lemon Sharks. When they detect movement of a large school of prey in the water, they will attack in a coordinated, directed group assault. They will also scavenge together and share any found carrion.
7. Lemon Sharks Are Extremely Social:
Lemon Sharks primarily live in social groups. They tend to stay with sharks that are of comparable physical size, but when younger will tend to group with larger sharks for protection. Researchers have notices that these groups have complex social rules, dominance hierarchies, and are highly cooperative. They have also found that Lemon Sharks essentially share information about prey, hunting techniques, and hunting grounds. Lemon Shark groups are similar to wolf packs in terms of social complexity because they have extremely large brains.
8. Lemon Sharks Have Complex Mating Rituals:
Since they are highly intelligent social species, they also have very complex mating rituals. They tend to congregate in mangroves every two years to reproduce. Lemon Sharks find potential mates using the same electroreceptors they use for hunting. Once they’ve found a potential mate they will participate in a range of mating rituals from shows of dominance to dancing to selective biting. Lemon Sharks will also mate with several mates in a cycle. One litter of Lemon Shark pups will typically have multiple fathers. The fathers are determined by sperm competition within the womb.
9. Lemon Sharks Can Withstand Captivity:
Most sharks do not fare well in captivity because of their narrow habitat requirements and unique biological characteristics. However, Lemon Sharks are surprisingly tolerant of captivity and can thrive in enclosed spaces. Typically, the sharks featured in aquariums and zoos are Lemon Sharks because of this ability. Though ideally, Lemon Sharks would live solely in the wild, captivity affords the opportunity for more intensive study of this amazing species while also helping promote breeding and conservation efforts.
10. Lemon Sharks Pose No Threat To Humans:
Even though, humans and Lemon Sharks interact routinely because of their shared ocean habitat preferences, Lemon Sharks are not aggressive towards humans. In fact, there have only been 10 Lemon Shark attacks ever documented and in each case it was a provoked attack where the victim survived. Humans on the other hand are a threat to Lemon Sharks. Lemon Sharks are highly praised for their meat and leather, so they are now listed as “endangered” by the ICUN because of heavy overfishing especially in the Northwest Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Oceans.
These lemon shark facts show just how this species is truly unique. Lemon Sharks are relatively abundant and the study of these great sharks can dispel the myths about sharks being aggressive, mindless predatory hunters. Lemon Sharks are instead social, intelligent, and stealthy. So next time you’re at the beach or an aquarium, keep your eyes out for these interesting creatures.