Conserve Wildlife Blog

Shark & Ray Conservation Week (Part 5 of a 6-part series – the Nurse Shark)

June 30th, 2016

This story marks the fifth of six blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s shark species.


THE NURSE SHARK: A SHELLFISH-EATING BOTTOM-DWELLER

By Michael Davenport, Wildlife Biologist & GIS Manager

The nurse shark isn’t your typical-looking shark. It doesn’t have the torpedo-shaped body of the fast swimming mako or great white, nor the large mouth in front. Instead, it has a somewhat flattened body with a small mouth located under it’s head. This species is specialized for feeding on the bottom of the seabed, primarily on shellfish. It’s teeth are not intended for tearing flesh, but for grinding hard prey, such as crabs.

A nurse shark. Photo courtesy of Gerald Walters & Jenkinson's Aquarium.

A nurse shark. Photo courtesy of Gerald Walters & Jenkinson’s Aquarium.

The nurse shark is a relatively docile species which is not generally considered dangerous to humans. They are easily approached and popular with SCUBA divers. However, if they are provoked (grabbed by a diver) they will bite in defense. Their mouth has a powerful suction for catching prey and they have been known to hold on after biting, so it’s best to leave them alone.

To learn more about this shark species which occurs in New Jersey waters, visit our Field Guide page.


 

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