Lemon sharks are tropical sharks that enjoy shallow waters such as bays and mangrove swamps. Their yellowish coloration helps them blend into the sandy shallows they call home. Though it is not aggressive toward humans, it should be treated with respect and may attack if provoked. They live in the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of North and South America, as well as the western coast of Africa. They are also found in the Pacific along the coast of Central America and the Gulf of California.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Chondrichthyes
Subclass - Elasmobranchii
Order - Carcharhiniformes
Family - Carcharhinidae
Genus - Negaprion
Species – N. brevirostris
Common Name – Lemon Shark
Lemon sharks are robust sharks that can grow to over 10 feet long. They are typically a yellowish brown color to help camouflage them against the coastal sandy sea bottoms where it roams. Aside from its color, it can be distinguished from other related requiem sharks by its blunt snout and second dorsal fin, which is almost as large or in some cases as large as the first. The lemon shark’s teeth are not serrated, hence its generic name “Negaprion”, which means “not a saw”.
Lemon shark young are born live, as opposed to hatching from eggs. Sharks are born in specific nursery areas, where the young sharks may live for many years before traveling to deeper waters. Gestation last 14 months, and females usually give birth to between four and 17 babies, called “pups”.
Lemon sharks are active during the day and night, but prefer to feed during the latter. They are specialized feeders who prefer to feed on specific fish of a certain size, depending on range. Lemon sharks prefer to live in loose social groups, and may undertake long migrations in search of food.
Lemon sharks are very well known, due to the work of Samuel Gruber of the University of Miami who has studied these sharks since 1967.
Lemon sharks do quite well in captivity and can be found in many aquariums, though they will often eat other fish in their tanks.
Lemon sharks are listed as “Near Threatened”. They were fished commercially in the 1940s and some fisheries still exist today. Their skin is used for leather and their liver oil is used for vitamin supplements. Their meat is also consumed, and their fins have been used for shark fin soup.
Their population is declining due to overfishing, as well as destruction of the mangroves that they depend on for nurserires.
- The Sharks of North America, Jose I. Castro, 2011
- The Little Guides: Sharks, Edited by Leighton Taylor, 1999
- Sharks of the World, 2005, Leonard Compagno, Marc Dando, Sarah Fowler