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How to Identify Lemon, Bull & Tiger Sharks

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Lemon, bull and tiger sharks are three very different species with discernible features that can help anyone tell them apart. The tiger shark prefers temperate and tropical seas, while the lemon shark occupies waterways along the coasts of North and South America and throughout the Caribbean Sea. The bull shark is somewhat ubiquitous, existing along the shorelines of all continents but Europe and Antarctica, and even in many rivers.

Lemon Shark

The lemon shark is so called thanks to its dull yellow color. An adult lemon shark can grow to 11 feet in length and weigh over 400 pounds. The lemon shark is considered to be a larger species, but it's far less aggressive than many smaller sharks can be. There is a yellow-brown tinge found along the dorsal fin on the back of the animal and a yellow tint along the abdominal area. There are two dorsal fins -- the first is broad and low and set behind the pectoral fins, and the second is nearly the same size and shape and is set at the rear of the animal.

Bull Shark

Bull sharks are commonly found in the shallows along the shoreline and even in inland rivers. They can grow to 11.5 feet and weigh up to 500 pounds. Since this behavior is not common amongst other species, sharks spotted in rivers or other freshwater bodies are often initially identified as bull sharks. They are grey in color on all visible areas, with a solid white underside. Bull sharks have short snouts, which they use to ram prey before proceeding to devour it. Their name was earned both by their facial appearance and their relentless and aggressive demeanor. Bull sharks have smaller eyes than many other species of shark, and you will find a large triangle-shaped first dorsal fin with a small triangular second dorsal fin behind. The pectoral fins are unusually large and triangular as well.

Tiger Shark

Young tiger sharks are often immediately recognizable thanks to the black stripes that run up and down along their sides. These tiger stripes get lighter and lighter as the shark matures until they disappear completely in adulthood. The tiger shark has large eyes and a short snout, with a large mouth accented by slots that run from its corners toward the rear of the fish. On its back the tiger shark has a large triangular dorsal fin with rounded corners and a small second dorsal fin that is far less pronounced. At a maximum size of 14 feet and 1,400 pounds, the tiger shark is considered a large shark.

Interesting Facts

In all there have been 22 reported lemon shark attacks against humans. There have been zero fatalities -- they prefer small fish and shellfish to any larger prey that may put up a fight. Bull sharks will attack larger mammals in certain circumstances and are aggressive more often than not. Tiger sharks are responsible for more attacks on humans than any other shark except the great white. Although they are responsible for fewer attacks, they are more likely to stay and continue to attack after biting a human. Tiger and lemon sharks are considered near-threatened species; although heavily fished, bull sharks are not threatened.