Wildlife Fact Sheets

Lemon Shark

Lemon Shark

Lemon Shark

Negaprion brevirostris

  • Life Span
    Up to about 30 years
  • Habitat
    Along sandy bottoms in inshore habitats like mangroves and reefs
  • Range
    Tropical and subtropical zones in the Atlantic and Pacific
  • Preferred Food
    Bony fish, crustaceans, rays, cephalopods and even sea birds

About

When life gives you a lemon shark … celebrate! Lemon sharks get their name from their yellow-ish hue that allows them to blend into the ocean’s sandy bottom. Lemon sharks spend a lot of time in the sand looking for their prey, including fish, rays and crustaceans. Lemon sharks have very few predators because of their large size, but sometimes large lemon sharks will eat baby lemon sharks. They’re not alone, mako sharks and tiger sharks have been seen to exhibit cannibalism as well.

Many lemon sharks, especially juveniles, like to spend time in mangrove habitats. Mangroves have thick roots, which are perfect for hiding from predators and are also home to lots of prey. However, mangroves are often threatened by development and pollution, which in turn affects lemon sharks. Protecting mangroves and coral reefs, one of their other favorite habitats, will help not only lemon sharks, but the countless other species that depend on a healthy reef ecosystem.

Did You Know?

Lemon sharks are not particularly aggressive sharks, so they’re not considered much of a threat to people in the water. However, their preferred habitat, like shallow coral reefs, can be in areas where people like to visit, so you should always keep a careful distance to make sure lemon sharks don’t feel threatened (this is the case with all sharks!). The ocean is their home, so please be respectful.

Status and Conservation

Although people often picture sharks as solitary creatures, lemon sharks are pretty social. In fact, lemon sharks prefer to be in groups of other lemon sharks about the same size. A study through the Bimini Biological Field Station found that juvenile lemon sharks can learn from each other. Swimming in groups could also help protect them from predators. Unlike other sharks, lemon sharks do well in captivity, which means scientists can better study their behavior and health.

Lemon shark populations are in better shape than some shark species, but they still are considered near threatened. Lemon sharks are targeted in some commercial and recreational fisheries around the world and are sometimes caught as bycatch in other fisheries. Like many sharks, lemon sharks are also harvested for their fins and meat.

Fast Facts

  • Lemon sharks can grow up to 10 feet long
  • Lemon sharks can dive up to 1,300 feet looking for prey

Resources

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