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

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

History of Managed Care

Leopard shark

Husbandry

Leopard shark

  • General
    • Keepers use the leopard shark’s variable spots and saddle markings to tell individuals apart (Perkins 2017)
    • Generally, keepers/aquarists consider leopard sharks to be pleasurable to work with, as these sharks are curious, easy to train, and easy to perform health exams on (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
    • Individual sharks have different personalities—some are more curious and approach keepers, some are more reserved and only approach when food is present (Perkins 2017)
    • When obtaining new animals, AZA institutions frequently provide leopard sharks for other AZA-accredited institutions; leopards sharks might also be collected from the wild with proper state permits (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
  • Shelters and enclosures
    • Leopard sharks do best in managed care environments that closely mimic their habitats in the wild (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
    • Water conditions (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
      • Leopard sharks require good water flow through their tank
      • Ideal water temperature range: 14.4-20.0°C (58-68°F); higher temperatures can promote mating
    • Leopard sharks need ample swimming space and sandy patches to rest on; some rock elements okay, but sharks need enough sandy space to lay comfortably (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
    • Tank environments should not have sharp angles; oval or round tank shapes are best, as sharks frequently swim along tank walls (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
    • Known to leap out of tanks, so tank covers and high “jump guard” walls are important (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
  • Interspecies compatibility (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
    • Some animals “pick on” docile sharks; leopard sharks should not be housed with these species
    • Other fish species housed with leopard sharks should be at least half as large as the sharks and, unless of large size, should not part of the sharks’ normal diet
  • Diet in managed care
    • Varies by zoo/aquarium
    • Birch Aquarium at Scripps (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
      • Fed different types of food—mackerel, smelt, clam, shrimp, and occasionally squid—so sharks obtain a variety of vitamins and nutrients
      • Adults and juveniles are fed the same food items; juveniles fed more fatty items (squid, shrimp) while growing
      • Vitamin supplements provided for each individual for proper nutrition
      • Aquarists track what and how much each individual eats
      • Sharks fed about 4% of their body weight per week (not exceeding 10% per week) to maintain proper weight
  • Health and training
    • Positive reinforcement and target training used to feed animals and perform health assessments; animals trained to associate a target (e.g., symbol, ball) with food (Perkins 2017)
      • This training helps to ensure each individual gets the right amount of food
      • Also reduces stress when keepers need to move animals
    • Health concerns (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
      • Parasites (e.g., leaches, flukes, isopods)
      • Wounds (e.g., from mating, bumping into walls)
  • Social interactions in managed care
    • Leopard sharks form a loose social hierarchy in managed care (Ebert et al. 2013)
      • Larger individuals dominant; maintain status by gently nipping at pectoral (side) fins of smaller tank mates
  • Managed care breeding (Melissa Torres, personal communication via email, 2017; unreferenced)
    • Easy to breed in managed care
    • Many aquariums breed and raise their own leopard sharks

Spotted gully shark

  • Like the leopard shark, the spotted gully shark adapts well to managed care (Smale 2003; Ebert et al. 2013)
  • Scientific studies at Bayworld, South Africa, have aided studies of spotted gully shark life history (determining age) and reproduction (conducting ultrasounds) (Smale 2003)

Attractive and Adaptive

Front view of a leopard shark resting on a sandy seafloor in captivity

The leopard shark's striking markings and hardiness in managed care make it a popular aquarium species. This species can pump water over its gills and rest on the bottom.

Prior to effective regulation, pups were frequently taken from wild populations and sold for the aquarium trade, causing declines in leopard shark stocks.

Image credit: © J.J. Newman. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the artist.

Image location: Catalina Island, California

San Diego Zoo's First Sharks

The San Diego Zoo readies sharks for display.

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