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Leopard Shark

Leopard Sharks are found in muddy bays and estuaries off the West Coast of the United States, with a preferred underwater depth of around 6 meters. They aren't exceptionally large sharks. The largest one ever recorded was only 6 feet long, which pales in comparison to the Great White, which not only can exceed 20ft, but also will dine on Leopard sharks (and well, a lot of other things too).

The species is known by the distinctive bar shapes on their backs and prominent dorsal fins. They are sometimes confused with Zebra Sharks, which have similar markings but do not even remotely share a habitat. (Zebra Sharks are found in the Indian Ocean and around Australia) As far as their diet goes, they are carnivores, and feed off of crustaceans and smaller fish.

Leopard sharks are ovoviviparous, which means that they give birth to live young, but not in the way that viviparous sharks do. You see, viviparous means that the young develop inside the mother with help from an umbilical chord and placenta. Ovoviviparous means that the young develop inside the mother, but inside an egg. After they hatch from the internal egg they are born. There are sharks that fall into both of those categories, as well as sharks that simply lay the eggs (Oviparous). Anyway, Leopard Sharks are ovoviviparous, with a gestation period of about a year. They give birth to between 4-29 young, which take up to a decade to reach their own sexual maturity. Leopard sharks have lived over 20 years in captivity.

These sharks are quite abundant and are listed as animals of least concern. However, they come up in recreational and commercial fishing nets, and there is a fear of potential overfishing in the future. In the wild their primary predators are sea mammals and larger fish (like other sharks.) Leopard sharks are not dangerous to humans. There is only one incident report on file, and it doesn't even involve a bite.


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