free shipping on livestock over $349
  • large_12337_Cali_leopard_shark.jpg NEW

California Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata)

Sharks - Octopus and Rays
Price varies based on options.
California Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata) Size From 3 to 6 feet - females are larger than males
  • Overview
  • Reviews
  • Tell a Friend

California Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata)

The leopard shark is one of the most common sharks along the coast of California. It’s a beautiful, slender fish with silvery-bronze skin, patterned with dark ovals that stretch in a neat row across its back. (Look closely at the dark spots — the older a leopard shark is, the paler the interior of the spots.) Sturdy, triangular pectoral fins are matched by two dorsal fins and a long, tapered tail swishes gracefully back and forth.

Natural history

The leopard shark lives in shallow waters of bays and estuaries and occasionally patrols the kelp forest, usually staying near the bottom. It’s rarely found in water more than 65 feet deep (19.8 m), although some have strayed as deep as 300 feet (91.4 m). At the other extreme, a leopard shark will often follow the high tide to feed while cruising shallow mudflats, then move back out again as the water recedes. 

Shark pups

A baby shark is called a pup. Unlike most fish, which lay eggs, a mother leopard shark keeps her eggs inside her body until they hatch. After 10 to 12 months, she gives birth to a litter of 7 to 36 pups, each about 7 inches (17.8 cm) long. 

Keeping the eggs safe inside her is a good way to make sure they all hatch. But it's also a reason the leopard shark has so few young — at least compared to the thousands of eggs many other fish lay. A female leopard shark is usually about 10 years old when she has her first litter. After that, a female will generally mate every year. 

Swim or sink

The leopard shark is at home on the seafloor, just a foot or so above the sand. This is because it, like all sharks, lacks the swim bladders that other fish use to fine-tune their buoyancy. Instead, a leopard shark stores oil in its enormous liver. All that oil helps to counterbalance the shark's weight, but it usually remains slightly less buoyant than the water around it, so the shark tends to sink whenever it’s not swimming. 

Bottom feeders

A leopard shark is made to feed on the seafloor. Its mouth is on the flat underside of its head and opens downward. Skimming above the sandy surface, juvenile leopard sharks pluck up crabs, clam siphons, fish eggs and the burrowing, hot dog-shaped fat innkeeper worm. 

As a leopard shark gets older, it starts eating more fish and fewer crabs. The leopard shark has been found with smoothhound sharks, bat rays and even octopuses in its stomach. 

Shovel for your supper

How does a leopard shark get buried prey? Divers have seen a shark swimming stealthily just above the sand, looking for the fleshy siphon of a clam sticking two or three inches above the bottom. If the shark is quick enough, it can grab the siphon in its teeth and yank it out of the sand, occasionally getting the whole clam in the process. 

Other times the clam senses the predator and yanks its siphon back to safety. In this case — as well as when the shark goes after innkeeper worms — the shark shovels its nose into the sand. With a mighty twist of its body, the shark unearths a pile of sand and, if it's lucky, gets a clam or worm for its trouble.


Oregon to Mazatlán, Mexico, including Gulf of California


Clams, fish eggs, fat innkeeper worms, crabs and fishes

From 3 to 6 feet - females are larger than males


Add Your Review

Your Name:
Email Address:
Review: Note: HTML is not translated! Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
Your Rating: 1   2   3   4   5
    Currently there are no reviews for this product. Share your opinion with others, be the first to write a review.
Your Name:
Your Email:
Friends Name:
Friends Email: