Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Reproduction, diet and habitat use of leopard sharks, Triakis semifasciata (Girard), in Humboldt Bay, California, USA

David A. Ebert A C and Thomas B. Ebert B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Pacific Shark Research Center, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, 8272 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, CA 95039, USA.

B US Abalone, PO Box 254, Davenport, CA 95017, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 56(8) 1089-1098
Submitted: 8 April 2005  Accepted: 10 October 2005   Published: 22 November 2005


A total of 312 female leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) was sampled in Humboldt Bay, California, USA, an important nursery ground for this species, during the spring month of May from 1983 to 1984 and 1985. Sexual segregation is strong as only three males were observed in the study area. Females ranged in size from 120 to 154 cm total length, and all examined were determined to be mature. Overall, 130 out of 153 females examined in early May contained term embryos. The number of embryos per female ranged from 1 to 37 with larger females tending to possess more embryos. Of the 159 individuals examined in late May, no females were found carrying embryos and most were ovulating. Diet analyses revealed that, overall, fish eggs (Atherinopsis californiensis) at 48.0%, had the highest percentage Index of Relative Importance (%IRI), followed by the cancrid crabs, Cancer antennarius (29.8%) and C. magister (11.6%). All other prey were of relatively minor importance, cumulatively representing 10.6% of the overall diet. Adults shift their diet after parturition: early May sharks fed almost exclusively on fish eggs, while crabs were more important in those examined in late May.

Extra keywords: feeding behaviour, litter size, neonates, nursery ground, sexual segregation.


We would like to thank the following people for advice, assistance and discussions at various stages of this project that originally stem from the senior author’s Masters degree thesis research; K. Bates (commercial fisher), G. Cailliet, J. Bizzarro, A. Carlisle, C. Rinewalt (Pacific Shark Research Center, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories), E. Ebert (retired, California Department Fish and Game) and M. Hoberg (University of Alaska Fairbanks). Support during the terminal phase of this project was provided by NOAA/NMFS to the National Shark Research Consortium and Pacific Shark Research Center.


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