Known as the “couch potato of the shark world,” the nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) leads a sedentary life. By day, it rests, and by night, it creeps over the sandy floors and coral reefs of its shallow-water habitat, slurping up little animals along the way. But though it’s not a fast or aggressive fish, you should give it plenty of space: People who act carelessly around nurse sharks risk serious injuries. Here are 13 things that every ocean-lover ought to know about the nurse shark.
Here are few facts about Nurse Shark:
THE FOOD IS SUCKED UP BY THEM.
Nurse sharks consume a wide range of sea creatures, including conchs, squid, and sea urchins, as well as bony fish.
A cavity in the nurse shark’s throat produces a powerful suction that pulls hapless prey into the nurse shark’s mouth, where rows of short, backward-curving teeth crush the prey.
THEY HAVE THE ABILITY TO “WALK” Around THE OCEAN FLOOR.
Nurse sharks can normally be found in shallow coastal waters in the wild. The fish are nocturnal predators that hunt within 65 feet of the surface of the ocean (although adults sometimes rest in deeper waters during the daylight hours).
They live near coral reefs and coastal shelves, and the majority of their hunting occurs right on the ocean floor, where these slow-moving carnivores search for prey in or near the sand. Instead of swimming, they often “walk” around the bottom with their pectoral fins.
THE WHALE SHARK IS RELATIVE TO NURSE SHARK.
Adult whale sharks can reach 40 feet in length and weigh many tons, making them the world’s largest fish. This animal, like the nurse shark, feeds by sucking, but the similarities don’t end there. Whale sharks and nurse sharks are all members of the Orectolobiformes order, which includes 39 shark species found mostly in temperate and tropical oceans.
They’re also known as “carpet sharks” because of their tiny mouths that don’t reach behind the eyes when viewed in profile. All of these fish have two dorsal fins and five sets of gill slits on their backs.
ADULTS CAN EXCEED TEN FEET IN LENGTH.
This species’ overall accurately measured length is 10.1 feet. In terms of weight, a 263.8-pounder caught by two fishermen (a father and his 15-year-old son) in 2007 was the heaviest adult ever recorded to the International Game and Fish Association. Day-old pups are 7.8 to 12 inches long, and a group of premature nurse sharks weighing between 4.2 and 5.3 ounces each were measured by scientists after being born near-term. It’s possible for big things to begin tiny.
NO ONE KNOWS HOW OR WHERE THE NAME “NURSE SHARK” ORIGINATED.
Why did people start calling this barbel-faced sea critter the “nurse” shark? It’s clearly not trained to care for hospital patients. It’s a linguistic puzzle, but historians have hypotheses.
Perhaps the suction-based feeding methods made sailors think of breastfeeding babies. Alternatively, the nurse in nurse shark may be a descendant of “huss,” an ancient term for an unrelated family of sea creatures.
(We now refer to them as “catsharks.”) Huss became nuss over time, a term that came to mean “shark” or “big fish.” But it’s possible that the name “nurse shark” is a misspelling of nuss.