Leopard shark - Triakis semifasciata


Illustration © Marc Dando

A unique pattern of striking black saddle marks. The saddle-marks become light-centered in adults.

Black, pale tan, to greyish, fading to whitish on their underside.

At birth, the shark is approximately 7.87 inches [20 cm] in length. Males mature a length of 2.3 to 3.9 ft [70 to 119 cm], while females mature at 3.6 to 4.2 ft [110 to129 cm]. Males reach a maximum length of 4.9 ft [1.5 m], and females reach 5.9 ft [1.8 m].

These sharks prefer cool to warm temperate inshore and offshore of the continental shelf. They are common on or near the bottom from intertidal to 13.1 ft [4 m]. They have also been recorded to 298.6 ft [91 m] deep. They prefer shallow, enclosed, muddy bays, flat and sandy areas, mud flats, and rock-strewn areas near rocky reefs and kelp beds.

Northeast Pacific from Oregon to the Gulf of California, Mexico.


  • General – Slow growing and late to mature.

  • Prey – The shark feeds opportunistically on bottom animals, including burrowing invertebrates. Diet varies with size and season.

  • Reproduction – Ovoviviparous, with no yolk-sac placenta. They have 4-29 pups per litter.

These are active, strong-swimming sharks. They form large, nomadic schools (sometimes with Smoothhounds - Mustelus mustelus and Piked dogfish). Most have a small range, but some travel up to 93.2 miles [150 km]. Sometimes seen resting on the sand among rocks.

They are common to abundant where they occur. They have valuable flesh, so intensive commercial and spots fishing led to their population declines. However, the U.S. population is now well-managed. Their status in Mexico is unknown. They are very hardy and readily adapt to captivity when they are young, and some have been maintained in aquaria for more than 20 years.