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Elkhorn Slough Elasmobranch Project
Species List: Leopard Shark

The leopard shark represents a top predator within the Elkhorn Slough and is one of the most common coastal/estuarine species of shark to be found in California and the Eastern Pacific Coast. These sharks range from Oregon to northern Mexico. Born at a length of several inches (20 centimeters), adults are reported to reach lengths of over 2 m (over 6 feet) though the average length for adults is less than 1.6 m (5 feet). After a 12 month oviviparous gestation period, 4 to over 30 pups are born during the spring in shallow coastal bays, and marine estuaries which serve as their nursery and incubation areas. These sharks are known to periodically aggregate into milling groups of in various parts of the ESNERR. Adult and juvenile leopard sharks feed upon fat innkeeper worms (U. caupo), anchovids (A. mordax), staghorn sculpin, (L. armatus) and crabs (P. crassipes; H. oregonensis). Most common from Spring through Fall this is perhaps the most recognizable species of shark or ray in the slough. These are long lived, slow maturing species that have proven to be susceptible to both over-fishing and habitat destruction.

  • Present year-round. (Talent, 1985)
  • Smaller sharks are common during summer and Fall, yet few are found during winter and spring. Large sharks are found year-round, but are particularly abundant in winter and spring.
  • Females contain 6-24 eggs or embryos. All gravid females in April contain near-term young, however, many of those found in late may contain eggs with little embryonic development. (Talent, 1985)
  • Within the Elkhorn Slough leopard sharks feed primarily on Urechis caupo, however, fish eggs, crustaceans and fish are a consistent part of their diet. (Talent, 1976)
  • Age growth rates for this species have been found. (Kusher et al , 1992)

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