Home » Fish Biographies » Fish Bio: Nurse Sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Fish Bio: Nurse Sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Description: Big, sluggish, bottom-dwelling and grey-brown in colour. They have two rounded dorsal fins (on the shark’s back), rounded pectoral fins and an elongated caudal fin. They have very strong jaws, a stout body, and a broad head with obvious barbells sticking out (thin, fleshy, whisker-like organs on the lower jaw in front of the nostrils that sense touch and taste). The fourth and fifth gill slits are very close together. The two dorsal fins are almost the same size and are rounded. Behind each eye there is a spiracle, an organ that takes in water used for breathing when the shark rests at the bottom. The nurse sharks are smooth to touch compared to other sharks that have rougher feeling skin.

Pair of Nurse Sharks

Habitat: Tropical and subtropical waters of Islands of the Caribbean, Easter Pacific Ocean and Western Atlantic Ocean. Found in mainly in coral reefs.

Behaviour: Nurse Sharks are generally docile creatures that do not attack humans unless they are provoked. They are found in groups of around 30-50 during the day remaining stationary by pumping air through both their gills and mouth until night. As nocturnal hunters they become solitary at night and hunt for food on their own targeting a wide variety of prey in the bottom sediment of the ocean. They are smart hunters in the sense they have been observed resting on the bottom of the ocean with their bodies supported on their fins, tricking crustaceans into a false shelter in which they then ambush and eat.

Nurse Shark

Size: 2-14ft long and can weigh up to 330kg

Diet: Crustaceans, bottom-dwelling fish, molluscs, squid, octopus, sea snails, sea urchins, sea snakes, stingrays and tunicates.

Breeding: Mating season is between late June and July. Nurse sharks are oviparous, meaning the eggs develop and hatch within the body of the female where the hatchlings develop further until live birth occurs. The gestation period is six months, with a typical litter of 20–30 pups which are replicas of the adult. The mating cycle is takes place every 2 years as it takes 18 months for the female’s ovaries to produce another batch of eggs. Nurse sharks mature at 15-20 years unlike most humans.

Here is a Video we took of some Nurse Sharks in Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World:

Did you know?!:  It’s still unclear why the nurse shark is called a “nurse shark”. There are a few ideas that it may come from a suckling sound they make when hunting which resembles that of a young baby. The most agreed origin is from the Old English word hurse, which translates as sea-floor shark, we’re putting our money on this at Aquaec, what do you think? Feel free to comment below.

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  1. Dear Mr. Dante,
    Hello. My name is Janelle. I am 8 years old. My summer project this year is to create an animal fact website. I am researching the aquatic biome and would like to know if I can use a picture found on your website of a nurse shark. The picture I am looking at is found on page: http://www.aquaec.net/fish-bio-nurse-sharks-ginglymostoma-cirratum/

    You can find my website at: animal atlas.djwelty.com

    Thank you for your assistance,

    • Dear Janelle,
      Feel free to use the picture and best of luck with the project! The internet was created to share information so in the future anything you can publicly access, you can use without asking anyone’s permission!
      Let us know when you win first prize,

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