October 2, 2013
The young Japanese leopard shark, which currently measures around 24cm in length, could eventually reach close to two metres when fully grown.
The shark, which gets its common name from the striking pattern of large spots and black saddle-like markings over its back, will remain in the nursery display for several months before being transferred in to the aquarium’s main ocean display.
Blue Reef’s Chris Ireland said: “Although he is still only small, Dexter, as he has been nicknamed by our aquarists, is an exact miniature replica of an adult leopard shark.
“He has really striking patterns and looks great in the nursery display – he’s also a great reminder that sharks come in all shapes and sizes and really aren’t these mythical man-eaters,” he added.
Leopard sharks are found from Japan to the coast of California. They live in the relatively shallow waters of bays and estuaries and are rarely found in water more than 20 metres deep.
Groups of sharks will sometimes swim very close to shore to feed on worms, shellfish and other prey items found in the mudflats.
They are designed to feed on the bottom – their mouths are located on the underside of their heads with jaws which open downward.
Swimming just above the seafloor, the sharks grab crabs, shellfish, octopus, rays and even other sharks.
Female leopard sharks are usually about 10 years old when they have their first litter, which can have as many as 37 young, after a gestation period of 10–12 months. The baby sharks are each about 15-20cms long when born.