Lemon sharks prefer subtropical waters that are shallow, such as coral reefs, enclosed bays, mangroves (typical nursery areas) and river mouths. They typically choose areas with rocky, or sandy bottoms. However, they are also found down to depths of about 300 feet in the open ocean. Here in Jupiter, they are often found at depths greater than 100 feet at some of our frequent locations. There does seem to be a correlation between the size of the shark and deeper depths.

Lemon Sharks (Negaprion Brevirostris) are sharks recognizable by their yellow skin that helps them camouflage against the sandy waters of their habitat. They live in subtropical waters and are known to return to specific nursery sites to breed. Lemon Sharks often feed at night and use electroreceptors to find their prey.

The lemon shark, otherwise known as Negaprion brevirostris in the scientific community, is just one of the over 1,000 species of shark you can find across the globe. Because of potentially depleting population sizes, the lemon shark is currently considered “Near Threatened.” 

Characteristics And Appearance Of A Lemon Shark

At birth, lemon sharks measure about 20 to 30 inches long. The pups stay at their nursing grounds with their litters (which can range from 4 to 17 members) for years before growing to their adult sizes.

Lemon sharks are sexually dimorphic—that is, you can tell if a given shark is male or female by looking at it. Male and female are lemon sharks are similar in appearance, but there is a slight distinction that makes each sex identifiable at a glance.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing And Intelligence:

 Lemon sharks are social and do live in loose aggregations, as we do see here in Jupiter. Group living starts after there are born. The young Lemon pups remain in a group in the mangrove nurseries for several years together, learning together. Lemon sharks that are older than a year old, tend to stay in similar sized groups.

Lemon sharks are extremely social in nature and are driven by this need. The brain of a Lemon shark, being comparable in relative mass to that of a mammal or bird, suggests they have the ability to learn from social interactions, cooperate with other individuals, and have the potential to establish dominance hierarchies and stable social

Weight And Length Of A Lemon Shark

Female lemon sharks tend to be 94 to 96 inches long at maturity, while males are generally 90 inches long. However, individual lemon sharks can be longer than these averages. Some of them can measure over 120 inches long, for instance. Both sexes weigh the same—approximately 406 to 551 pounds.

Importance To Humans

The lemon shark is targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries along the US Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The US bottom longline fishery commonly targets this species and it is also caught as by-catch in both pelagic and gillnet fisheries. The meat is consumed in Central America, South America, and the US. Their fins are highly prized and exported to Asia for shark fin soup and their skin is used for leather.

Danger To Humans

Lemon sharks represent little threat to humans. According to the International Shark Attack File, there have been only 10 unprovoked attacks by lemon sharks, all occurring in Florida and the Caribbean. There have been no fatal attacks attributed to this species. The lemon shark inhabits coastal waters in close proximity to swimmers, surfers and divers. While the number of attacks attributed to this species is low caution is still warranted as they are a large predatory species (ISAF 2018).

Facts About Lemon Sharks

1. The largest lemon shark ever recorded was around 12.1 feet (3.7 m) long.

2. Lemon sharks can weigh up to 551 pounds (250 kg) and live up to 30 years.1

3. Lemon sharks are named for their yellow-brown skin that helps them camouflage in the sandy, tropical waters they inhabit.

4. Lemon sharks can be found at depths up to 300 feet (90 m).

5. Lemon sharks have a very broad appetite, eating all kinds of fish, rays, crustaceans, seabirds and other sharks.2

Where Do Lemon Sharks Live?

You can find the lemon shark in coastal regions all over the world. They are most populous in the Gulf of Mexico, the West Indies, and the Caribbean. Sizable populations exist along the Brazilian coast, the Mexican peninsula, and the eastern United States, too. You can even find them along the west coast of Africa.

What Do Lemon Sharks Eat?

Lemon sharks will eat all sorts of sea animals, including insects. With that in mind, though, lemon sharks especially love eating fish, shellfish, and mollusks. Some of their typical prey include:

  • Brown crabs
  • Catfish
  • Cowfish
  • Croakers
  • Crayfish
  • Eagle rays
  • Guitarfish
  • Porcupinefish
  • Rays

 How Many Lemon Sharks Are There In The World?

Although the exact population of lemon sharks inhabiting this world is still unknown, there has been a rapid decline in their number since 2007. They are generally targeted by commercial fishermen who kill them for their meat, skin, and  fins. Their meat is eaten as a delicacy in several areas and their skin is sometimes used for leather. The destruction of their mangrove habitat as well as the practice of ‘shark finning’, a ritual where several communities believe eating fin soup can heal many diseases, have further led to their decrease in population.

What Is A Lemon Shark’s Habitat?

The habitat of a lemon shark generally include the Atlantic ocean and Eastern Pacific ocean, New Jersey, Brazil .

How Long Does A Lemon Shark Live?

The life span of a lemon shark is 27 years in the wild.

How Do They Reproduce?

Mainly found in the Atlantic and Pacific waters, lemon sharks are marine creatures who reach their sexual maturity as early as at the age of 12-16 years. They assemble at special mating grounds for reproduction. Spring and summer are generally considered to be their mating season. Gestation period lasts for 10-12 months, and females give birth to their offspring in shallow nursery waters. Young lemon sharks, also known as pups, stay in their nursery for several years, following which they move further into deeper waters.

How Big Is A Lemon Shark?

Lemon sharks are social animals, who can grow up to a length of  7.9-10.2 ft  (2.4-3.1 m). The maximum length attained by a lemon shark is almost 11.3 ft (3.43 m). They are slightly smaller in size than the whale shark, which is considered to be the biggest of the shark species.

How Fast Can A Lemon Shark Swim?

Lemon sharks move at a speed of 2 mph (3.2 km/h).

How Much Does A Lemon Shark Weigh?

An adult lemon shark can weigh up to  200 lb  (90 kg). The largest lemon shark was recorded to have weight of 405 lb  (183.7 kg).

What Is Their Conservation Status?

Lemon sharks are listed as a ‘near threatened’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The destruction of the mangrove, which is one of their primary habitats and the practice of ‘shark finning’, a practice where their dorsal fins are used to make fin soup and eaten by several communities, have decreased their number form the world gradually. They have also been killed for their meat which is considered as a delicacy in several communities and their skin which is used for leather by humans.

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