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Nurse Shark

  The 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.
Size: These 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 when startled.


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