Nurse Shark

Scientific Name Ginglymostoma cirratum (Name meaning: "Curled hinged mouth")

Native To Tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic and eastern Pacific

Habitat Warm, shallow water, often found resting in caves or rocky crevices. Nurse sharks often return to the same resting site.

Size and Age Averages 2.2 - 2.7 meters. Maximum reported size is 4.5 meters, but this might be exaggerated.

Natural History

  • Reproduction: Ovoviviparous. Embryos develop inside an egg case in the mother's ovary, hatch, and are born live. Litters are typically 20-30 pups. Juveniles are often found in shallow coral reefs and mangroves. Lifespan under human care can reach 25 years, lifespan in the wild is unknown.
  • During mating season, males will bite onto the female's pectoral fins, and will then attempt to push the female onto her side. Non receptive females may try to avoid males by burying their pectoral fins in the sand.

Interesting Facts

  • During the day, nurse sharks rest on the ocean floor and may be found in groups of up to 40.
  • Nurse sharks are nocturnal hunters. They may use their heavy bodies and blunt snouts like bulldozers to flip over rocks and corals to locate prey such as stingrays, crustaceans, and molluscs. Once prey has been located, nurse sharks capture their food with a powerful suction.
  • Nurse sharks have a pair of barbels near the front of their nose. These are sensory organs, used to help locate hidden prey.
  • Generally docile and not considered dangerous to humans. However, nurse sharks will defend themselves with a powerful bite if disturbed or harassed.
  • Current wild population trends are unknown. However, these sharks are vulnerable to fisheries and may be targeted by fisheries or unintentionally caught as bycatch. Nurse sharks are sometimes considered pests and killed by fishers.