Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The lemon shark has been the subject of one of the most long-term and intensive studies on a shark species. Much of what is known about this shark is due to the work of Dr Samuel Gruber and his colleagues. This predator is most active at dawn and dusk, and occurs singly or in loose aggregations of up to 20 individuals. It feeds primarily on fishes, including sea catfishes, mullet, stingrays and eagle rays, but also on crustaceans and molluscs. During the day they often lie quietly on the seabed, apparently resting, but in reality this behaviour uses up more energy than when swimming, due to the extra effort required to pump water over the gills (2). Therefore, they may be lying motionless waiting for wrasses or other small reef fishes to clean them of any parasites (3). The lemon shark is viviparous; the embryos develop inside the mother and receive nutrients via a yolk sac placenta. After a gestation period of 10 to 12 months, pregnant females enter shallow nursery areas in spring and summer to give birth to litters of 4 to 17 pups. The pups have a very slow growth rate and remain within nursery grounds for a considerable length of time, where they are less vulnerable to predation by larger sharks (2). The mangroves that the young frequently inhabit are highly productive waters, creating a marvellous site for feeding, but also an area of very low oxygen content. Luckily, the lemon shark has numerous adaptations that enhance oxygen uptake, such as blood with an unusually high affinity for oxygen, and thus the pups can lie feeding in the rich waters, protected from any large potential predators by the mangrove's tangled roots (2) (6). As they grow, their range expands dramatically, from six to eight kilometres up to around 300 kilometres. Maturity is reached at about six and a half years of age, and it is believed that the lemon shark lives for up to 27 years (2).
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Description

This stocky, powerful shark is named for its pale yellow-brown to grey skin, which lacks any distinctive markings. This provides perfect camouflage when swimming over the sandy seafloor in its coastal habitat (3). It has a flattened head with a short, broad snout, and the second dorsal fin is almost as large as the first (2). The lemon shark's retina has a specialized horizontal band across the middle, which is disproportionately rich in cones that discern fine detail and colour in well-illuminated conditions. This 'visual streak' is thought to provide the shark with a particularly clear view of its underwater world (4). This shark is potentially dangerous to humans due to its large size and powerful bite, and though there have been some unprovoked attacks, many were the result of provocation from divers and swimmers (2) (3).
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Comprehensive Description

Description

  Common names: shark (English), tiburón (Espanol), cazón (Espanol)
 
Negaprion brevirostris (Poey, 1868)


Lemon shark


A large stocky shark; snout short and broad, somewhat rounded; eyes small, with lower eyelid;  no spiracle; lip furrows at corners of mouth; mouth arched, ends well past eye; upper and lower front teeth with a single narrowly triangular straight point, mainly smooth, large fish have serrations on bases of upper teeth; 5 gill slits, last 2 over pectoral; spiracles usually absent (occasionally with very small spiracles); no ridge on back between dorsal fins; origin of first dorsal fin behind rear margin of pectoral fins; second dorsal fin 80-100% size of first; pectoral fins broad and slightly curved; anal fin large, a little smaller than second dorsal, with strongly notched rear margin;  pit on top of tail base is longitudinal, straight; tail asymmetric, with well developed lower lobe.


Pale yellow brown on back and sides, yellowish or whitish below.


Attains about 340 cm; size at birth 60-65 cm.

A common inshore shark seen in a variety of habitats including rocky reefs, estuaries, and river mouths (may enter fresh water).

Depth: 0-90 m.

Tropical waters of the Atlantic and eastern Pacific (southern Baja and the Gulf of California to Peru.   
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Biology

Occurs on continental and insular shelves, frequenting mangrove fringes, coral keys, docks, sand or coral mud bottoms, saline creeks, enclosed bays or sounds, and river mouths. May enter fresh water. Occasionally moves into the open ocean, near or at the surface, apparently for purposes of migration. May rest motionless on the bottom (Ref. 9710). May occur singly or in small groups. Feeds mainly on fish but also takes crustaceans and mollusks. Viviparous, with 4 to 17 young in a litter. Size at birth 60 to 65 cm. Has been involved in several attacks on people. Meat is utilized for human consumption, hides for leather, fins for shark-fin soup base, liver oil for vitamins, and carcasses for fish meal. Marketed fresh, dried-salted and frozen (Ref. 9987).
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/2):251-655. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 244)
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Distribution

Lemon sharks inhabit the Nearctic region of the Atlantic Ocean, from the coast of New Jersey, USA to southern Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. There have also been sightings of lemon sharks along the coasts of Senegal and the Ivory Coast in Africa. This species is also found in the eastern Pacific Ocean, from Baja California to Ecuador. Lemon sharks are migratory and are found in oceanic waters during migration, but tend to be found in coastal areas otherwise. Efforts are underway to learn more specifics of lemon shark migration through tagging and tracking.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )

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Range Description

This inshore species is common along the coasts in the Atlantic Ocean ranging from the US in the north down to southern Brazil and possibly in some areas on the West African Coast. It is not known whether these populations are the same species (Compagno 1984). Lemon Sharks also occur in the Pacific Ocean from Baja California in the north to Ecuador in the south.
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Western Atlantic: New Jersey, USA to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean; also in Gulf of Mexico
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Zoogeography

See Map (including site records) of Distribution in the Tropical Eastern Pacific 
 
Global Endemism: All species, TEP non-endemic, East Pacific + Atlantic (East +/or West), East Pacific + all Atlantic (East+West)

Regional Endemism: All species, Eastern Pacific non-endemic, Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) non-endemic, Continent, Continent only

Residency: Resident

Climate Zone: North Temperate (Californian Province &/or Northern Gulf of California), Northern Subtropical (Cortez Province + Sinaloan Gap), Northern Tropical (Mexican Province to Nicaragua + Revillagigedos), Equatorial (Costa Rica to Ecuador + Galapagos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo), South Temperate (Peruvian Province )
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Western Atlantic: New Jersey, USA to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean; also in Gulf of Mexico (Ref. 26938). Northeast Atlantic: Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire and probably wide-ranging off West Africa, but this requires confirmation. Eastern Pacific: southern Baja California, Mexico and the Gulf of California to Ecuador.
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/2):251-655. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 244)
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Atlantic; Eastern Pacific.
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Depth

Depth Range (m): 0 (S) - 90 (S)
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Range

Occurs in the tropical western Atlantic, from New Jersey to southern Brazil; and in the north eastern Atlantic, off west Africa. It is also occasionally found in the eastern Pacific, from southern Baja California and the Gulf of California to Ecuador (2) (5).
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Physical Description

Morphology

The coloration of lemon sharks varies from dark olive to yellowish brown dorsally, with a lighter yellow underside; they have no conspicuous markings. These sharks are large and stocky, with blunt snouts that are shorter than the width of their mouths. The bottom teeth are triangular and narrow with smooth-edged cusps, while the upper teeth are more broad and have smooth cusps and serrated bases. Teeth become more oblique as they near the corners of the mouth. They have two dorsal fins, with the posterior fin being shorter than the anterior, and paired pectoral and pelvic fins. This species is sexually dimorphic, with females being larger than males (averaging 240 cm vs 225 cm, respectively, though larger individuals have been found).

Range mass: 183.7 (high) kg.

Range length: 240 to 368 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Size

Length max (cm): 340.0 (S)
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Size

Maximum size: 3400 mm TL
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Max. size

340 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 26938)); max. published weight: 183.7 kg (Ref. 40637); max. reported age: 25 years (Ref. 31395)
  • IGFA 2001 Database of IGFA angling records until 2001. IGFA, Fort Lauderdale, USA. (Ref. 40637)
  • Smith, C.L. 1997 National Audubon Society field guide to tropical marine fishes of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 720 p. (Ref. 26938)
  • Smith, S.W., D.W. Au and C. Show 1998 Intrinsic rebound potential of 26 species of Pacific sharks. Mar. Freshwat. Res. 49:663-678. (Ref. 31395)
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Diagnostic Description

A brownish shark with yellow overtones but no conspicuous markings. Large second dorsal fin nearly same size as first dorsal (Ref. 26938).
  • Smith, C.L. 1997 National Audubon Society field guide to tropical marine fishes of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 720 p. (Ref. 26938)
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Type Information

Type for Negaprion brevirostris
Catalog Number: USNM 28167
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes
Collector(s): C. Gilbert
Year Collected: 1880
Locality: Mexico: Mazatlan., Sinaloa, Mexico, Pacific
  • : Jordan, D. S. & Gilbert, C. H. 1882. Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 5 (268): 102.; Type: Jordan, D. S. & Gilbert, C. H. 1882. Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 5 (268): 102.
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Ecology

Habitat

Lemon shark are most commonly found in shallow ocean waters (to depths of 90 m), in habitats including mangroves, coral reefs and enclosed bays. They have also been known to congregate around docks. These sharks may be found in brackish and freshwater as well, most typically in river mouths and sounds, though they do not typically venture deep into these areas. They can be found in the open ocean during migrations. Lemon sharks can adapt to low oxygen and shallow water environments and may be found resting on ocean bottoms.

Range depth: 0 to 90 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; benthic ; reef ; coastal ; brackish water

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Lemon Shark inhabits shallow waters around coral keys, mangrove fringes, around docks, on sand or coral mud bottoms, in saline creeks, in enclosed sounds or bays and in river mouths. It may enter fresh water but has not been found far up in rivers (Compagno 1984b). Occasionally it ventures into the open ocean and has been found down at depths of at least 90 m (Springer 1950).

Mating occurs during spring and summer with parturition in shallow nursery grounds the following year after a 10-12 month gestation period (Bigelow and Schroeder 1948, Springer 1950, Clark and von Schmidt 1965). The female Lemon Shark gives birth to 4-17 young (Clark and von Schmidt 1965, Compagno 1984b) of 50-60 cm TL (Gruber and Stout 1983, Brown and Gruber 1988). Maturity is reached at 225 cm (males) and 235 cm (females) or at an age of 12 and 13 years, respectively (Compagno 1984b, Brown and Gruber 1988). Growth follows the von Bertalanffy equation (Brown and Gruber 1988):

PCL = 317.65 × (1-e -0.057 (t + 2.302)), n = 110, r2 = 0.99 , where PCL is precaudal length (m) at time t (yrs).

This equation assumes the maximum length to be 317 cm, but the lemon shark can become bigger. Hueter and Gruber (1982) examined a 368 cm large male. The normal size range of the adult is 250-290 cm with females being slightly bigger than males (Brown and Gruber 1988) but sizes of up to 3 m or more are not unusual (Clark and von Schmidt 1965). At this size the shark would have a weight of approximately 250 kg (Gruber 1984) and is probably more than 30 years old.

Activity space ranges from a few km² in the highly site-attached juveniles (Morrissey and Gruber 1993a) up to several hundred km² in the more active adults (Compagno 1984b). Juvenile Lemon Sharks appear to select shallow (0-50 cm) and warmer water (30°C or more). They also prefer rocky or sandy substrate (Morrissey and Gruber 1993b). Almost all field research on the Lemon Shark originates from the waters in and around the Bimini Lagoon, Bahamas where a high annual, density-dependent mortality rate (35-62%) for young-of-the-year Lemon Sharks was found (Gruber et al. 2001). This is probably due to predation by larger sharks (Manire and Gruber 1993). Jacobsen (1987) suggested that the same area could support about 250 juveniles while Henningsen and Gruber (1985) estimated the population to be around 500 specimens with a density of five sharks per km². The annual production of these Lemon Sharks was 320 kg corresponding to about 0.3 g of new Lemon Shark tissue for every m² of lagoon (Henningsen 1989). Later, Gruber et al. (2001) estimated that the maximum number of juveniles that could survive each year in the Bimini Lagoon was 30. Young Lemon Sharks feed mainly on teleosts, crustaceans (small portunid crabs and panaeid shrimp) and octopods. As they grow the diet becomes dominated by teleost and cartilaginous fishes and the adults even eat sea birds (Springer 1950, Cortés and Gruber 1990). The energy consumed and later used for growth depends on the daily feeding rate but maximum conversion rate is probably close to 25% (Cortés and Gruber 1994).

Systems
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Habitat Type: Marine

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benthic
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Environment

reef-associated; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); brackish; marine; depth range 0 - 92 m (Ref. 244)
  • Compagno, L.J.V. 1984 FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 2 - Carcharhiniformes. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(4/2):251-655. Rome: FAO. (Ref. 244)
  • Riede, K. 2004 Global register of migratory species - from global to regional scales. Final Report of the R&D-Projekt 808 05 081. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn, Germany. 329 p. (Ref. 51243)
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Depth range based on 10 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 8 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 1 - 60
  Temperature range (°C): 22.006 - 23.236
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.951 - 1.990
  Salinity (PPS): 36.017 - 36.251
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.658 - 4.984
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.090 - 0.424
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.391 - 2.629

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 1 - 60

Temperature range (°C): 22.006 - 23.236

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.951 - 1.990

Salinity (PPS): 36.017 - 36.251

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.658 - 4.984

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.090 - 0.424

Silicate (umol/l): 1.391 - 2.629
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Depth: 0 - 92m.
Recorded at 92 meters.

Habitat: reef-associated.
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Salinity: Marine, Brackish

Inshore/Offshore: Inshore, Inshore Only

Water Column Position: Mid Water, Near Bottom, Bottom, Bottom + water column

Habitat: Reef (rock &/or coral), Rocks, Reef and soft bottom, Reef associated (reef + edges-water column & soft bottom), Soft bottom (mud, sand,gravel, beach, estuary & mangrove), Mud, Sand & gravel, Estuary, Water column

FishBase Habitat: Reef Associated
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The lemon shark occurs over continental shelves, from the surface down to a depth of least 92 meters. It usually occurs around corals keys, at the fringes of mangroves, around docks, in saline creeks, in enclosed bays and at river mouths. It occasionally travels short distances upriver, entering freshwater, and also ventures into the open ocean when migrating (2) (5).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Oceanodromous. Migrating within oceans typically between spawning and different feeding areas, as tunas do. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km.
  • Riede, K. 2004 Global register of migratory species - from global to regional scales. Final Report of the R&D-Projekt 808 05 081. Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn, Germany. 329 p. (Ref. 51243)
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Trophic Strategy

Lemon sharks feed on molluscs, crustaceans, and bony fish. Some examples of prey items include cowfish (Acanthostracion quadricornis), flathead mullets (Mugil cephalus), spot-fin porcupinefish (Diodon holocanthus), Atlantic guitarfish (Rhinobatos lentiginosus), spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus narinari), brown crabs (Cancer pagurus), red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), and southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana). Juveniles are known to feed on giant tiger prawns (Penaeus monodon) and shore crabs (Carcinus maenas).

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore )

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Exhibits no pattern of periodicity. Feeding is asynchronous and intermittent. Daily ration is estimated at 1.5 - 2.1% body weight per day; meal completely evacuated from stomach 25-41 hr after feeding, depending on meal type and temperature; fecal production continues for 68-82 hr after feeding (Wetherbee 1990).
  • Wetherbee, B.M., S.H. Gruber and E. Cortes 1990 Diet, feeding habits, digestion, and consumption in sharks, with special reference to the lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris. p. 29-47. In H.L. Pratt, Jr., S.H. Gruber and T. Taniuchi (eds.) Elasmobranchs as living resources: advances in the biology, ecology, systematics, and the status of the fisheries. NOAA Tech. Rep. NMFS 90. 517 p. (Ref. 568)
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Feeding

Feeding Group: Carnivore

Diet: mobile benthic crustacea (shrimps/crabs), mobile benthic gastropods/bivalves, octopus/squid/cuttlefish, bony fishes, sea snakes/mammals/turtles/birds
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Associations

Lemon sharks are hosts to a variety of ectoparasitic copepod species, as well as several endoparasitic fluke and tapeworm species. It has also been found with attached remoras (Echeneis naucrates), or sharksuckers, which feed on scraps from feeding lemon sharks and can also help to keep infestations of dermal parasites in check.

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

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While adult lemon sharks may occasionally eat juveniles, there are no known predators of adult lemon sharks.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Lemon sharks use a number of sensory channels. Their retinas have specialized horizontal bands known as "visual streaks" that are extremely rich in cones, which discern color and visual detail. Their vision is very important in prey capture, as evidenced by an experiment conducted at the Lerner Marine Laboratory, which found that temporarily blinded lemon sharks were not able to detect a 113 kg chunk of blue marlin (Makaira mazara), while unimpaired lemons sharks found the blue marlin with ease. Lemon sharks do, however, have an acute sense of smell; another experiment at the same laboratory found that individuals of this species were able to detect one part of tuna juice in 25 million parts of sea water. As with all sharks, lemon sharks have ampullary receptors (Ampullae of Lorenzini) concentrated on their heads, which sense electric charges and serve to help them hone in on prey items. These sharks also have a homing sense, enabling females to return to the same areas each time they give birth and juveniles to return to safe nursery waters.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical ; electric

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Life Cycle

Following mating, female lemon sharks gestate developing young for 10-12 months, after which they give birth to a litter of 4-17 live pups. Young are typically 60-65 cm long at birth and these sharks grow throughout their lifetimes, at an average rate of 0.54 cm/year.

Development - Life Cycle: indeterminate growth

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Distinct pairing with embrace (Ref. 205). Viviparous, placental (Ref. 50449), with 5 to 17 embryos (Ref. 9253). Both male and female during precopulatory and courtship swim with body axes in parallel (Ref. 49562, 51112). During copulation, the pair performs coordinated swimming (Ref. 49562, 51112).
  • Castro, J.I. 1993 The shark nursery of Bulls Bay, South Carolina, with a review of the shark nurseries of the southeastern coast of the United States. Environ. Biol. Fish. 38:37-48.
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Life Expectancy

The longest recorded lifespan for the lemon shark in captivity is 25 years. Using size and growth rate information, individuals caught in the wild have been estimated at over 30 years old.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
30 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
25 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 20 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Mating occurs during the spring months, and is followed by a period of gestation for 10-12 months. It is likely that females store sperm from multiple mates to allow sperm competition, as a recent study showed that many lemon shark litters exhibit multiple paternity, indicating that this species is polyandrous. Mating is generally accomplished by a male biting a female on the pectoral fin and inserting his clasper (sexual organ) into her cloaca; recently mated females exhibit "mating wounds" from this behavior.

Mating System: polyandrous

Lemon sharks breed seasonally, typically during the spring and summer months. These sharks are viviparous and give birth to litters of 4-17 pups. Gestation period is 10-12 months and there is some evidence that, after producing a litter, females take a year off before mating again. Each time they give birth, female lemon sharks return to the same nursery areas. Juveniles remain in shallow waters of the nursery area, likely to avoid predators and have easy access to shore-line prey, for 2-3 years. They do not typically leave these safe areas until they have reached at least 90 cm in length and are less vulnerable. There is not much known beyond this regarding how and when juveniles leave for open waters and adult habitats, although there is evidence that they remain nearby their nursery areas for a number of years.

Breeding interval: Lemon sharks breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Lemon sharks breed during spring and summer months.

Range number of offspring: 4 to 17.

Range gestation period: 10 to 12 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6 to 7 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6 to 7 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous ; sperm-storing

Following mating, there is parental involvement by male lemon sharks. Females gestate young for 10-12 months.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female)

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Egg Type: Live birth, No pelagic larva
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Negaprion brevirostris

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 11 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CCTTTACTTGATTTTTGGTGCATGAGCAGGTATAGTTGGAACAGCCCTTAGTCTTTTGATTCGGGCTGAACTTGGCCAACCTGGATCACTTTTAGGGGATGACCAAATTTATAATGTAATCGTAACTGCCCACGCTTTTGTAATGATCTTTTTTATAGTTATGCCAATCATAATTGGTGGTTTCGGAAACTGACTAGTTCCATTAATAATTGGTGCACCAGATATAGCCTTCCCACGAATAAACAACATAAGTTTCTGACTTCTTCCACCATCATTTCTTCTTCTCCTCGCCTCTGCTGGAGTAGAGGCTGGAGCAGGTACTGGCTGAACAGTATATCCTCCATTAGCTAGTAACCTAGCCCATGCTGGACCATCTGTTGATTTAGCTATCTTCTCTCTTCACTTAGCCGGTGTTTCATCAATTTTAGCTTCAATTAACTTCATTACAACCATTATTAATATAAAACCACCAGCTATCTCCCAATATCAAACACCATTATTTGTTTGATCCATCCTTGTAACTACTATTCTCCTTCTCCTTTCACTTCCAGTTCTTGCAGCAGGGATTACAATATTACTTACAGATCGTAACCTTAATACTACATTCTTTGACCCTGCAGGTGGAGGAGATCCAATCCTTTNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Negaprion brevirostris

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 10
Specimens with Barcodes: 14
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Genomic DNA is available from 2 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at British Antarctic Survey
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Although lemon sharks are classified as "Near-Threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are no management plans currently in place for this species.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

  • IUCN, 2012. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed January 26, 2013 at www.iucnredlist.org.
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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2009

Assessor/s
Sundström, L.F.

Reviewer/s
Musick, J.A. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This assessment is based on the information published in the 2005 shark status survey (Fowler et al. 2005).

The Lemon Shark (Negaprion brevirostris) is a large coastal shark that is common in the Atlantic Ocean along the coasts of the United States to Brazil and possibly in some areas on the West African coast, as well as in the Pacific from Baja California to Ecuador. Young sharks are highly site attached but adults may undertake long migrations, possibly to deeper waters at the onset of winter. The species is caught both in commercial and recreational fisheries, but no management plans are implemented.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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IUCN Red List: Listed, Near threatened

CITES: Not listed
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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Lemon Sharks are caught commercially on longlines and the meat is dried, salted, or smoked. The fins fetch a very high price. The Lemon Shark is consumed in the United States and in Central and South America (Rose 1996). The rough and heavy skin has made the lemon shark preferable among tanneries for the production of leather. However, it is not included in TRAFFIC Network's list of species frequently appearing in available information on worldwide shark fisheries (Rose 1996). It is a target species in Belize, Mexico and USA and reported as bycatch in St Lucia (Oliver 1996, Anon. 1997). Lemon Sharks were seen at a fish market in Cameroon in 1991, but not since then (C. Grist pers. comm.). The species is also caught in recreational fishing and was reported as the 13th most common shark species in the US recreational fishery (Casey and Hoey 1985). A decrease in the number of juvenile Lemon Sharks between 1986-1989 in the lower Florida Keys may have been caused by several years of shark fishing tournaments and 20 years of targeting with gillnets affecting the return of females to bear new litters (Manire and Gruber 1990). The Lemon Shark is a popular aquarium species and it is also used extensively for research purposes. Lemon Sharks used to be common in the western Atlantic, from New Jersey, USA to Brazil, but lately their numbers have been depleted, especially around Florida (S.H. Gruber pers. comm.).
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Near Threatened (NT)
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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The lemon shark is caught in commercial and recreational fisheries; for their meat, skin, fins for soup, and liver for vitamin-rich oil (2). There is some evidence indicating that this exploitation is depleting populations in the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic (1) (5). The shallow, coastal nursery grounds are susceptible to human-induced habitat degradation (1) (5), particularly mangrove swamps which are being destroyed to make way for shore front hotels and shops throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas and Caribbean region (6).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
There are no management plans in place for the Lemon Shark. Some research, however, has dealt with related issues so there is a base of knowledge should a plan ever be implemented.
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Conservation

The lemon shark is not currently considered to be at risk from extinction, and there are no known specific conservation measures in place. However, it may gain some protection from the United Nations International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. This requires that signatory states, such as Ecuador, Mexico and the United States, implement a national programme for the conservation and management of shark stocks, and carry out regular assessments of stocks (7).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

This animal poses only a minor threat to humans; there are only 10 recorded unprovoked lemon shark attacks (none fatal) on record in the International Shark Attack File.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

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Lemon shark meat has been marketed fresh, salted or frozen and their fins, in particular, are prized among Asian cultures for use in shark-fin soup. Liver oil from lemon sharks has been used for its vitamin content and its hide has been used as leather.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; source of medicine or drug ; research and education

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Importance

fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes
  • Coppola, S.R., W. Fischer, L. Garibaldi, N. Scialabba and K.E. Carpenter 1994 SPECIESDAB: Global species database for fishery purposes. User's manual. FAO Computerized Information Series (Fisheries). No. 9. Rome, FAO. 103 p. (Ref. 171)
  • International Game Fish Association 1991 World record game fishes. International Game Fish Association, Florida, USA. (Ref. 4699)
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