Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata) – La Jolla Shores, California
Being that they have been eluding me the past few days, it seems only appropriate to kick off my Shark Week shinanigans with the Leopard Shark!
Our local sharks will always be near and dear to my heart. It’s like visiting old friends! We have a few different species of sharks in San Diego, this one in particular is the Leopard Shark. They dwell in the shallows and you can generally see them in just a few feet of water. They tend to be skittish around divers so snorkeling and free diving is best. Because of their timid nature, keep noise and splashing to a minimum for a better encounter! Leopard sharks are at home on the sea floor, just a foot or so above the sand. They skim above the sandy surface to pluck up crabs, clam siphons, fish eggs, and the burrowing worm. Even though they are a Pacific coast shark and can be found from Washington to Mexico, they are seasonal here in San Diego. They generally start showing up in May/June because it is believed the pregnant females incubate their young in the warmer waters of the shallows. They keep their eggs inside their bodies until they are ready to be hatched, then the leopard shark gives birth to a few dozen pups! We will start seeing tons Leopard Sharks as the summer months go on 🙂 These sharks are noted to be harmless to humans because of their small mouth and shy nature. It’s still important, as always, to be respectful to their space. Note their beautiful patterns on their long slender bodies as they scour the ocean floor!
My favorite encounter with these beautiful sharks happened on a night dive a few years ago. A group of us started to walk out of the surf, and all of the sudden we had tons of leopards in less than a foot of water swimming around our ankles and between our feet. You could see 20-30+ fins cruising through the shallow water. Our only guess was it was mating season. Never seen anything like it since though. It was one of those breathtaking moments when you know you’ve just witnessed something unique and special. The below video clip was taken by Lucas Barbieri from that night!