This rather solidly built shark is named not after how it tastes (shark meat is not sustainable, stay away from it) but its yellow color.
Yep. Part of the Carcharhinidae family, lemon sharks sport a yellow/green/olive color that helps them camouflage over the sandy seafloor in their tropical habitats. This camouflage makes them almost invisible to the prey they eat, such as fish, when they're hunting at night... you know, until the teeth sink in. Although mainly piscivorous, they are known to like the occasional snack of crustaceans and benthic organisms. They also like eating each other. Pick your jaw up off the floor, you've heard this before in other sharks. Intraspecific predation/cannibalism of juvenile lemons have been observed.
They prefer subtropical shallow waters that have coral reefs, mangroves, bays or river mouths. However, they have been found in open ocean (mainly during migrations). They tend to avoid dense grass beds as it makes it difficult to find prey... and who wants to work for their meal?
Lemon sharks tend to live in or near shallow-water mangroves, which are usually nursery areas for their young. In fact, Bimini's Biological Field Station AKA the "Shark Lab" showed that sharks display site fidelity, coming back to the nursery they were born in, to give birth! At BBFS, ongoing research is being done on lemon sharks, from movement to behavior aspects.
They are known to be social, and live in groups when young pups. This increases communication, mating possibilities and protection, amongst other things. However, it does come with cost: disease risk increases (such as illness or parasite) and competition for resources (food and 'shelter').
However, the social interactions in lemon sharks is unique in that the size of the lemon's brain is rather large, suggesting that they have the ability to cooperate with others and even establish hierarchies. Dr. Tristan Guttridge has done marvelous work on this.
This species of shark is viviparous, with the females being polyandrous (she takes multiple mates) and having a biennial reproductive cycle. Dr. Samuel "Sonny" Gruber, founder of BBFS, has observed the breeding biology of these animals for many years.
No, unless you bother them, which they can then inflict a nice bite.
Lemon sharks are one of the few sharks that can bite their own tails (and I've seen it done, so this isn't some myth). Besides that, they each have their own individual personality and are lovely animals to work with (but I'm biased... because I've worked with them).
They are assessed as "Near Threatened" (NT) by the IUCN due to habitat degradation and destruction, primarily in the coastal Caribbean (i.e. Bimini resort has recently been dredging and ruining the mangrove nurseries, despite the efforts of BBFS).
Want to learn more about these jaw-some animals?
Here are some great articles to check out:
- Samuel H. Gruber, John F. Morrissey (1993). "Habitat selection by juvenile lemon sharks, Negaprion brevirostris". Environmental Biology of Fishes 38 (4).
- Guttridge, TL; Gruber, SH; Franks, BR; Kessel, ST; Gledhill, KS; Uphill, J; Krause, J; Sims, DW (20 January 2012). "Deep danger: intra-specific predation risk influences habitat use and aggregation formation of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris". Marine Ecology Progress Series 445: 279–291. doi:10.3354/meps09423.
- Wetherbee, BM; Gruber, SH; Rosa, RS (7 August 2007). "Movement patterns of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris within Atol das Rocas, Brazil: a nursery characterized by tidal extremes". Marine Ecology Progress Series 343: 283–293. doi:10.3354/meps06920.
- Franks, Bryan (October 2007). "The Spatial Ecology and Resource Selection of Juvenile Lemon Sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) in their Primary Nursery Areas". Drexel University.
- Newman, SP; Handy, RD; Gruber, SH (5 January 2010). "Diet and prey preference of juvenile lemon sharks Negaprion brevirostris". Marine Ecology Progress Series 398: 221–234. doi:10.3354/meps08334.
- Jacoby, David M P; Croft, Darren P; Sims, David W (1 December 2012). "Social behaviour in sharks and rays: analysis, patterns and implications for conservation". Fish and Fisheries 13 (4): 399–417. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2979.2011.00436.x.
- "BBC Nature"