Sharks in the Estuary

Estuary background image with color overlay


In this activity, students examine two sharks found in estuaries (the leopard shark and the sandbar or brown shark) and identify features that make the sharks well suited to life in the estuary environment.

This activity has one part:

  1. How to Read a Shark

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Students should understand that:

  • The elasmobranchs, or cartilaginous fish, include rays, skates, and nearly 400 species of sharks.
  • The torpedo shape of the shark helps the shark swim quickly through the water.
  • The shape and size of the caudal fin (tail) and dorsal (back) fins provide clues about how fast a shark might swim and whether a shark is hunting for fast prey in the open ocean or slower prey in the estuary.
  • Different sharks have different teeth depending on what they eat.
  • In addition to the sensory network made of the lateral line system and ampulae of Lorenzini, sharks also rely on hearing, smell, and vision.


Bull shark (credit: NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC)
Lemon shark
Lemon shark (credit: NOAA-Apex Predators Program)
Lemon shark
Lemon shark (credit: NOAA-Apex Predators Program)
Leopard shark
Leopard shark (credit: Elkhorn Slough NERR)
Sandbar shark
Sandbar shark (credit: NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC)
Sandbar shark
Sandbar shark (credit: NOAA)
Copepod (credit: Russ Hopcroft, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration)