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COMMON NAME: Nurse Shark

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ginglymostoma cirratum

DESCRIPTION: Tan to dark brown with a flattened body and broad, rounded head; up to 9 feet long and over 300 pounds.

HABITAT/RANGE: Coastal and subtropical waters of the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans

DIET: Stingrays, mollusks and crustaceans.


ON EXHIBIT: Adventure Zone D – Shark Realm

Nurse Sharks

The nurse shark is a common inshore bottom-dwelling shark, found in tropical and subtropical waters, and its typical habitats are reefs, channels between mangrove islands and sand flats. It can reach lengths of up to 14 feet. It is also nocturnal, spending the day in large inactive groups of up to 40 individuals. Hidden under submerged ledges or in crevices within the reef, the nurse shark seems to prefer specific resting sites and will return to them each day after the night's hunting.

By night, the nurse shark is largely solitary and will spend most of its time rifling through the bottom sediments in search of food. Its diet consists primarily of crustaceans, mollusks, tunicates, sea snakes, and other fish, particularly stingrays. Unlike some shark species, the nurse shark is able to breathe while stationary by pumping water through the mouth and out the gills.

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