Nurse sharks, sometimes known as “sea couch potatoes,” are big, calm fish that gently glide down the ocean’s bottom in shallow water, sucking up food as they go. They hunt alone at night, but during the day, they return to the same pleasant resting spot, where they love sleeping in heaps. Despite their close proximity to people, these fish are rarely aggressive; they will only attack if surprised or provoked. These friendly sharks may live up to 25 years in captivity and are at ease in zoo aquariums.
Nurse Shark Scientific Classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Chondrichthyes
- Order: Orectolobiformes
- Family: Ginglymostomatidae
- Genus: Ginglymostoma
- Scientific Name: Ginglymostoma cirratum
- Conservation Status: Near Threatened
- Locations: Ocean
Nurse Shark Facts
- Main Prey: Squid, Fish, Octopus
- Habitat: Warm waters and tropical coastal regions
- Predators: Human, Bull Shark, Tiger Shark
- Diet: Carnivore
- Average Litter Size: 20
- Lifestyle: Solitary
- Favorite Food: Squid
- Type: Fish
- Slogan: Commonly found in Central American waters!
Nurse Shark Physical Characteristics
- Colour: Brown, Grey, Black, White
- Skin Type: Smooth
- Top Speed: 25 mph
- Lifespan: 20-25 years
- Weight: 90-150kg (198-330lbs)
5 Nurse Shark facts
- The nurse shark employs buccal pumping to breathe, unlike many other shark species that must swim at all times to breathe. They oxygenate their gills by pulling water into their mouths using their oral muscles, allowing them to remain motionless and even sleep.
- Unless they are disturbed, these sharks pose little harm to people. Many individuals swim straight by these sharks without even realizing they’re there.
- Rather than migrating like many other fish species, when a school of nurse sharks finds a nice resting spot, they remain there each day after hunting.
- They move on the ocean floor using their pectoral fins, and females may sometimes bury their pectoral fins in the sand to evade male mating approaches.
- Instead of chasing its meal and grabbing it in a frenzy of chewing teeth like other sharks, this species floats just above the water floor and vacuums up its prey. After sucking their meal into their jaws, they smash it with rows of serrated teeth before swallowing it.
Nurse Shark Scientific name
The nurse shark belongs to the Chondrichthyes class and belongs to the Ginglymostomatidae family. Ginglymostoma cirratum is a combination of Greek and Latin that meaning “curled, hinged mouth.” This shark’s moniker is a good match because he always appears to be puckering up. Many experts believe this shark’s name comes from the Old English word “hurse,” which means “sea-bottom shark,” since it loves to dwell near to the ocean floor.
Nurse Shark Appearance
The nurse shark has a long snout with a tiny, rectangular mouth and a broad body. Barbels, which extend down from their top lip, are two sensory organs. These barbels assist them in locating tiny fish and crabs in the sand.
This shark species differs from several of its more deadly cousins in appearance. Their thick skin is smoother than that of most other sharks, and their dorsal fin is rounder rather than the pointed dorsal fin found in most other sharks. They are also distinguished by their hue, which is tawny brown rather than grey.
These sharks may reach a length of 7.5 to 9 feet and a weight of 150 to 300 pounds. The biggest nurse shark ever recorded is 14 feet long, more than twice as long as the typical man’s height. Their dorsal fins are rounded rather than pointed, unlike those of more deadly shark species. They also have long tails that may account for up to a quarter of their overall length.
Nurse Shark Behavior
Although the nurse shark is a nocturnal predator, if you spot one during the day, it will most likely be resting with a group of other sharks of similar size. These sharks don’t move; after a night’s hunting, they’ll go to their preferred cave or coral reef to repose.
Nurse Shark Habitat
Nurse sharks like warm, shallow water and may be found all throughout the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean’s eastern and western coasts. They dwell in close proximity to human activities and, while not generally hostile, they may bite in self-defense if humans intrude on their area.
Nurse Shark Population
Although their numbers have been decreased in some regions owing to prior overfishing for their skin and oil, there is no record of the nurse shark population globally. Since humans no longer hunt these sharks, the species has thrived and is no longer on the verge of extinction.
Nurse Shark Diet
The nurse shark’s favorite meals are small fish, shellfish, shrimp, and squid, however, they may occasionally consume algae and coral. Because they hunt at night, it’s thought that they consume resting fish, which are sluggish enough to be easy prey.
Nurse Shark Predators and Threats
The nurse shark isn’t targeted by any specific predators on a regular basis, although it can be a tasty meal for larger sharks like tiger sharks or lemon sharks. This shark species is neither threatened nor endangered.
Nurse Shark Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan
When a male nurse shark wants to mate, he bites the female’s pectoral fin to keep her in position throughout the mating procedure. In comparison to other sharks, this species’ reproductive mechanism is unusual in that more than one male can fertilize the same litter, according to studies.
The female of this shark species is ovoviviparous, which means she carries the fertilized eggs inside her to incubate. She gives birth to a brood of around 25 live puppies after a 6-month incubation period. When these puppies are born, they are around 8-12 inches long. It takes the female 18 months after giving birth to generate eggs and begin the reproductive cycle all over again.
Nurse Sharks in Zoos
Nurse sharks thrive in captivity, probably due to their lower activity levels than other shark species. They are less disturbed by smaller dwelling areas than their more active cousins since they do not need to remain swimming to breathe. A nurse shark in captivity has a lifetime of up to 25 years.
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington; Henry Doorly’s Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska; and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland are just a few of the places where you may see them.
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