Are There Sharks in the Tidepools?

February 07, 2017 Posted by: Alex Warneke

Leopard Sharks
 NPS/Michael Ready

Perhaps one of the most frequent questions we get from our younger and sometimes older visitors is, “Are there sharks in the Cabrillo tidepools?” To which we casually respond, “Well, of course! There are sharks everywhere in our oceans.” More often than not this explanation is met with a startled silence and big eyes. Cue the ominous music…
Fortunately, visitors to our park have little to fear from any shark, but especially the ones that frequent our tidepools. In late summer, Cabrillo welcomes several adult and juvenile Leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) to the small, warm pools just south of the peninsula.

Leopard Sharks
  NPS/Michael Ready

These silvery-grey, slender animals are not easily spotted within the complex tidepool topography, despite their rather distinguishable dark, saddle-like markings. Adults of this species can grow up to roughly 4-5 feet in length. However, many of the ones we see at Cabrillo are not often that large. The sharks mainly utilize the seagrass beds as foraging grounds for their primary diet of invertebrates and small fishes.
Leopard sharks are long-lived (approximately 30 years) and docile creatures. Their home range extends from Oregon to the Gulf of Mexico and they prefer to hang out in sandy shores and estuaries. These sharks are ovoviviparous meaning their eggs incubate and hatch inside them and they proceed to give live birth to roughly 4-33 pups. Scientists believe, pregnant females come in shore during the summer months to the warm waters of La Jolla as a type of thermal incubation.
Leopard sharks are harmless to humans. As with most shark species, we pose more of a threat to them than they do to us through fishing and global stressors such as pollution and climate change. So next time you see a dark foreboding shadow lurking just beneath the water’s surface, consider yourself lucky! You might have just got a glimpse of the amazing Leopard sharks of the Cabrillo tidepools. 

Last updated: February 7, 2017

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