Leopard shark on bottom [169K]

The leopard shark, also commonly known as the zebra shark, is one of the most docile species. This six to seven foot specimen (2 meters) seems content to lay still as I approached within a few feet with my camera, at a depth of about 110 feet. As with the other bottom-dwelling sharks, this species has the ability to pump water over its gills even when stationary, though they also tend to face into the current to help with breathing. Unlike many of the more dangerous sharks, adult leopard sharks have a distinct blunt teardrop shape, with a disproportionately long tail compared with its body, and the characteristic spotted pattern.  The juveniles are darker with light stripes; only adults have the characteristic "leopard" spots. They also have raised skin ridges which run lengthwise along the body. Definitely not man-eaters, they feed on small fish, molluscs, and crustaceans.

Stegostoma fasciatum

related links:
Leopard shark summary from Fishbase
common shark questions answered from the Shark Trust, a conservation-oriented site
Outstanding shark photography from S. Africa diver Charles Maxwell

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