The leopard shark (Triakis semifasciata) earned that common name due to its pattern of dark saddles and spots on their fins and upper body. Underneath they are a silver or bronze colour with a pale underbelly. The genus Triakis is from the Greek word triakis, meaning "three pointed," like their three pointed teeth; the species name semifasciata means "half-banded," such as the distinctive bands on this shark. They are a relatively small animal, only getting up to 2.13 m (7 ft) with most being no larger than 1.83 m (6 ft).
Their short snout contains tooth sets that overlap different tooth rows. This allows for a flat, ridged area that normally catches invertebrates and small fish.
According to the FLMNH website, some research shows that red blood cells (erythrocytes) in leopard sharks are more numerous than their relatives, the brown smooth-hound (Mustelus henlei) and the gray smoothhound (Mustelus californicus), allowing them to more easily absorb oxygen from the water. This strong swimmer is often found in schools with these relatives and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). Scientists speculate it may help them avoid predators, such as larger sharks.
Female leopard sharks are ovoviviparous, having a gestation period of about 10-12 months, with litters of 4-33 pups being born between April/May. Commercial and sport fishermen utilize the leopard shark for food (don't worry about the tons of mercury you're also ingesting). These animals are also loved in the aquarium trade business. The IUCN has listed leopard sharks as Least Concern (LC).
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