Shark profiles‎ > ‎

Nurse shark

Scientific Name - Ginglymostoma cirratum

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. The skin is dark gray-brown on top and some nurse sharks, especially the young, have spots. The nurse shark is smoother to the touch than most other sharks. They are nocturnal hunters that rest during the day in groups. No one is sure how they got their name; it might be because they make a sucking sound that is a little like the sound of a nursing baby.
Scientific Classification
  • Order: Orectolobiformes
  • Family: Ginglymostomatidae
  • Genus: Ginglymostoma
  • Species: cirratum
  • Scientific Name: Ginglymostoma cirratum

Life Expectancy

20-25 years

Dangerous to Man?

No - Mainly non-aggressive, generally will swim away when approached. However, some unprovoked attacks on swimmers and divers have been reported. If disturbed it may bite with a powerful vice-like grip capable of inflicting serious injury. In some instances, jaws release was accomplished only after using surgical instruments. The frequency of bites has increased recently as a result of ecotourism feeding operations.

Conservation Status

Although the nurse shark is not an endangered species, its abundance in the littoral waters of Florida has decreased in the past decades. The presence of this species in areas with constant anthropogenic activity makes it susceptible to disturbance. Because of its relatively docile behavior, swimming with ( & handling/feeding) nurse sharks is a very popular form of ecotourism.This shark is listed as "Data Deficient" with the IUCN).


Nurse sharks can reach a length of 4.3 m (14 ft).


The young are born in late spring/early summer with litter of 20-30 pups. Each pup measures 10.6-11.8 inches (27-30 cm) total length.


A nocturnal predator, the nurse shark feeds mainly on fish especially stingrays, molluscs (octopi, squids and clams) and crustaceans. Algae and corals are occasionally founded in the stomachs as well. The nurse shark has small mouth, but its large, bellows-like pharynx allows it to suck in food items at high speed. This system probably allows the species to prey on small fish that are resting at night, species that are too active for the sluggish nurse shark to catch during the day. Heavy-shelled conches are flipped over, and the snail extracted by use of suction and teeth.

Other Names

carpet shark, cat shark, dogfish, sand shark


Top Speed of 40km/h (25mph).


Nurse sharks can reach a weight of 330 lbs (150 kg).


While global population figures are unknown, nurse sharks are common in shallow waters within their range.