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Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata) and Spotted Gully Shark (T. megalopterus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat

Leopard Shark (Triakis semifasciata) and Spotted Gully Shark (T. megalopterus) Fact Sheet


Leopard shark

  • Endemic to western North America
    • Range: Oregon, USA, to Mazatlan, Mexico, including the Gulf of California (Miller and Lea 1972; Love 1996; Castro 2011; Carlisle et al. 2015)
      • State of Washington considered to be part of its range by some
        • One sighting in Washington (Farrer 2009), but substantial fishing effort suggests leopard sharks have not extended their northern range limit into Washington (Russo 2016)
    • Particularly abundant in bays of northern California (Love 1996)
    • Rarely taken in fisheries in the Gulf of California (Carlisle et al. 2015)
  • Depth usage
    • Range: intertidal down to about 90 m (295 ft) (Love 1996; Ebert 2003; Smith and Horeczko 2008)
    • Usually observed in shallow water to 20 m (66 ft) (Love 1996; Ebert 2003)
      • Nosal et al. (2013a) found that sharks at a San Diego aggregation site spent 71% of their time in water less than 2 m (7 ft) deep and 96% of their time in water less than 10 m (33 ft) deep
    • If crossing deeper water, believed to stay within 30 m (98 ft) of the surface (Nosal et al. 2016)

Spotted gully shark

  • Endemic to southern Africa, from southern Angola to Coffee Bay, South Africa (Maduna et al. 2017)
    • Occurs in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa (Compagno 2009)
  • Depth usage
    • Occurs in shallow water—less than 20 m (66 ft) deep (Compagno et al. 1991; Smale and Goosen 1999)
      • Usually found less than 10 m (33 ft) deep (Ebert et al. 2013)
    • May use deeper water in winter than summer (De Vos et al. 2015)
  • Southern Africa has remarkable diversity of sharks and rays (Compagno 1999; Ebert and van Hees 2015, except as noted)
    • “One of the three richest and most diverse” places in the world for sharks and rays (Ebert and van Hees 2015)
      • In part, due to convergence of two oceans, Atlantic and Indian Oceans (Soekoe 2016)
      • More diversity on east coast compared to west coast
    • Taxa present: all 13 chondrichthyan (shark/skate/ray/chimera) orders: 49 families (of 61 worldwide), 111 genera (of 200 worldwide) (as of 2015)
      • More than 200 species, or nearly 20% of all known chondrichthyans; many endemic species
        • Nearly one third at risk of extinction (IUCN status of Vulnerable or a “more threatened” status) (as of 2015)


Leopard shark

  • Found in a variety of shallow, cool-to-warm temperate ocean habitats (Castro 2011)
    • Coastal, nearshore waters (“open coast”) and around coastal islands (e.g., Channel Islands, California) (Ebert 2003; Nosal et al. 2013a; Carlisle et al. 2015)
      • Beaches, sandy shores
      • Rocky reefs
      • Kelp forests
    • Inshore waters (Miller and Lea 1972; Carlise and Starr 2009)
      • Bays
      • Estuaries, sloughs
      • Mudflats
  • Common in inshore habitats (Castro 2011, and as noted)
    • Abundant in bays and estuaries of California
      • Elkhorn Slough (e.g., Carlisle et al. 2007), San Francisco Bay, Tomales Bay, Humboldt Bay (Ebert 2003; Russo 2016)
      • Use narrow channels and tidal creeks (e.g., Carlise and Starr 2009)
    • Use subtidal and intertidal habitats (e.g., mudflats) (Carlise and Starr 2009)
    • Eelgrass beds might provide newborn/young sharks food resources or protection from predators (Ebert and Ebert 2005)
  • Nursery habitats used by newborns

Spotted gully shark

  • Lives in shallow, cool-temperate waters (Compagno 2009) or the warm/cool temperate current junction along the coast of Angola-Namibia (Soekoe 2016)
    • Found in water temperature regimes similar to the leopard shark (Kim Lovich, personal communication, 2017)
  • Prefers shallow nearshore and inshore habitats (Compagno 2009; Best et al. 2013; Ebert et al. 2013)
    • Sandy shores
    • Rocky reefs
    • Crevices in shallow bays
  • Usually observed along the seafloor/substrate (Booth et al. 2011), from shallow water to the surf line (Compagno 2009)

Leopard Shark Distribution

Distribution of leopard shark

The leopard shark, Triakis semifasciata, is endemic to the western coast North America, from Oregon, USA, to Mexico.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

Spotted Gully Shark Distribution

Distribution of spotted gully shark

The spotted gully shark, Triakis megalopterus, is endemic to southern Africa.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN)

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