Taxonomy [Stegostoma Fasciatum] [Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Chondrichthyes] [Family: Triakidae]
A leopard shark is instantly recognized by its leopard-like spots.
The shark's yellow-brown skin tone is covered with dark brown spots.
Juvenile leopard sharks - zebra shark - have different coloration that appears as narrow white stripes.
Adult leopard sharks have a cylindrical body with five gill slits aside its broad head with an elongated caudal fin and they exhibit prominent skin ridges that are absent in the young zebra sharks.
Although they may appear to be a fearsome shark, divers can get surprisingly close to an adult as it rests on the sandy seabed.
Leopard sharks are generally docile, approachable and harmless to humans.
Leopard sharks are predominantly solitary fish but are occasionally found in groups up to 50 individuals.
They hunt in the dark during the night time and usually rest lazily on sandy patches of the seabed during daylight hours.
They are active nocturnally hunting for their favorite prey of mollusks, small sleeping fish and crustaceans.
Leopard sharks swim slowly compared to other sharks but their flexibility and power helps them to retrieve food from small crevices on the reef.
After breeding, the female leopard shark anchors a large dark purple egg to the seabed using hair-like fibers. They often lay more than one egg each gestation and the young become immediately independent of their parents.
Adult male leopard sharks become sexually active after they reach 1.5 meters in length, whereas the female reaches sexual maturity around 1.7 meters. Unconfirmed reviews suggest that the average life span is 25 years with optimum conditions for these sharks.
You find leopard sharks in warm temperate and tropical areas such as the Indian Ocean and west Pacific Ocean. They are more abundant in Australian waters because they are not over exploited here. They are generally shallow bottom dwellers close to coral reefs and also at depths to 50 meters.
Although surveys suggest that the numbers of leopard shark are not in significant decline, there are reports that the shark is less common in recent years. The main threat to the species is its capture from commercial fishing.
Other than Australia where the threats are minimal, dead leopard sharks are regularly found for sale in fish markets in Thailand, The Philippines, Taiwan and India. The shark's liver is used in the production of vitamins and dried shark fins are used in soups.
Evidence shows that the shark's distinct decline in the Gulf of Thailand may be due to the use of explosives and poisons during localised fishing practices.
Shark Species Information |> Bull Sharks |> Nurse Sharks |> Top killers |