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nurse shark is a large, sluggish, bottom-dwelling shark that is generally
harmless unless provoked. It has very strong jaws, a stout body, and a wide head
with obvious barbels (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 dorsal fins (on the shark's back) 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.
Nurse sharks are thought to take advantage of dormant fish
which would otherwise be too fast for the sharks to catch; although their small
mouths limit the size of prey items, the sharks have large throat cavities which
are used as a sort of bellows valve. In this way nurse sharks are able to suck
in their prey like a vacuum.
The grey nurse
shark is a large species of shark native to subtropical to cool temperate waters
in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Once
widely distributed, they are now restricted to waters off parts of the United
States, Uruguay, Argentina, South Africa and Australia.
In Australia, grey nurse sharks live in two separate populations, one on the
east coast of New South Wales (NSW) and southern Queensland, and the other in
coastal waters off Western Australia.
With numbers as low as 500 individuals, the east coast
population has been listed by the Commonwealth as critically endangered under
the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, while the west
coast population is listed as vulnerable.
sharks are 2-13 feet in length.
Teeth: The nurse shark has thousands of replicable, fan-shaped serrated
teeth, that are capable of crushing shellfish.
Color: The nurse shark is generally a dark brown-grey. some have speckles.
Feeding Habits: Nurse Sharks eat bottom dwelling creatures like fish,
shrimp, squid, octopus, lobsters and sea urchins. The barbels help them locate
food at night, as they are very sensitive to touch.
Senses: The barbels on the snout are very sensitive to touch, and help
this shark search out food in the dark.
Social Behavior: Nurse Sharks gather in schools. Sluggish, they often
rest during the day, sometimes piled on top of each other on the ocean bottom.
Habitat | Migration | Distribution: Nurse Sharks live in warm, shallow waters to
a depth of about 70 feet. They are common in corral reefs, and near mudflats and
sand-bars. Nurse Sharks can be found in the western Atlantic Ocean and the
eastern Pacific Ocean.
Life Span: Undetermined
Reproduction: Nurse Sharks are aplacental viviparous breeders. In
aplacental viviparity, the eggs develop inside the body after internal
fertilization and hatch within the body of the mother. Litters consist of 20-30
pups that are tiny replicas of the adult.
Nurse Sharks mature at 15-20 years old.
Swimming: Slow and lumbering swimmers most of the time, but can dart away