Perhaps the reason this is, to date my favourite of the sharks, is because it is the most researched. And the reason for that is because it is one of very few sharks that handle captivity well, so make studying them possible and a whole lot easier.
Lemon Sharks have a beautiful yellow hue, hence their name and almost cat-like eyes, unlike a lot of the other sharks. An adult can grow to approximately 11 feet and weigh close to 200kgs, not a little fella’ by any stretch of the imagination! At this point, I want to stop, and actually encourage you to think about the size. Think of the tallest person you know, generally that’s around 6 to 6.3 feet tall; now think again about the size of the adult Lemon Shark, 11 feet! It’s huge, and still not the biggest shark in our oceans.
Lemon Sharks are not fond of colder waters, so tend to hang around tropical and sub-tropical locations, close to mangroves (where they tend to grow to adolescence) before venturing out into the great big world) and islands, coast lines and even river mouths. They prefer shallower waters and don’t really dive much beyond 80 meters. Sadly, not likely to see one around here (Cape Town)
As we have learnt from previous posts, all sharks have “electro receptors” and the Lemon Shark is no different. These receptors allow the shark to sense and then track their pray by picking up on the electric impulses that are emitted by all living things, in addition they also have an amazing sense of smell which is rather helpful considering their rather poor eye sight. The Lemon Sharks diet comprises mainly of bony fish, crustaceans, rays and sometimes even seabirds, when they choose to venture closer to the surface. Grocery shopping for the Lemon Shark, means churning up the oceans floor and grabbing whatever gets un-earthed.
Lemon Sharks are a social bunch, perhaps this is as a result of their “up bringing”. A pregnant shark will swim into safe waters, like dense mangroves, reefs and lagoons, and there birth her pups. She can birth up to as many as 20 live pups. She’s not much of a nurturer, and swims off, leaving them to fend for themselves, which they do, by swimming into even denser waters for safety, where they will spend 7 to 10 years growing into the adolescent sharks that will venture out into deeper seas. So, it stands to reason that having grown up together and within such close quarters, that they would exhibit this social behaviour.
Even though they are a social bunch, they are picky when it comes to mating and will travel some huge distances to find the “perfect” one. Of course the romantic in me wants to believe that this is because they are scouring the oceans for their soul mate, but the researchers believe that it is because the Lemon Shark wants to eliminate the possibility of in-breeding. Either way, they tend to only mate with sharks from different areas and groups.
Lemon Sharks are docile, gentle creatures making them a favourite amongst shark divers. There has never been any fatalities reported due to a Lemon Shark, and in the odd case of a bite, I was as a result of being spooked, making the fact that this shark is considered near threatened, even more upsetting! It’s believed that the reason for their drop in numbers is as a direct result of humans taking over, using the Lemon Sharks natural environment for other human pursuits. Also this beautiful shark is hunted by fisherman for their meat, fins and skin. When will we stop and realise that we need the earth and all it offers to survive!?
Until we meet again, keep that toothy grin!
By Nadine Bentley