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 Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

  Index
> Photo
> Range Map
> Systematics
> Name
> Appearance
> Coloration
> Distribution
> Biology
> Feeding
> Size
> Reproduction
> Similar Species
> Endangerment
> Danger to Humans

 Photo

Nurse shark
© Hai-Stiftung/Shark Foundation
 Range Map

Earth Map


 Systematics

Phylum: Vertebates (Chordata)

Class: Carlilagenous Fishes (Chondrichthyes)
  Order: Carpetsharks (Orectolobiformes)
    Family: Nurse sharks (Ginglymostomatidae)
      Genus: Ginglymostoma (Ginglymostoma)


 Name

Scientific: Ginglymostoma cirratum
German: Atlantischer Ammenhai
English: Nurse shark
French: Requin nourrice
Spanish: Gata nodriza


 Appearance

Broad and flat head, with moderately long barbels. Mouth is well in front of the very small eyes. Spiracles present. Two big and rounded dorsal fins. Origin of first dorsal fin about opposite of pelvic fins. Large, rounded pectoral fins. Very long caudal fin, over 1/4 of total body length.

 Coloration

Yellowish-brown to grey-brown. No conspicuous markings.

 Distribution

Western Atlantic: Rhode Island to southern Brazil, Bermuda, Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, Cuba and Caribbean. Eastern Atlantic: Cape Verde Islands to Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon. Eastern Pacific: California to Equador. Unknown in the Mediterranean.

 Biology

Abundant in very shallow water (1m depth) of the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. They lay mostly motionless on the bottom with head in a crevice or in a cavern. Sometimes found in aggregations. Nocturnal. They prefer to swim close to the bottom. Pectoral fins are sometimes used to move over the bottom or they use them to "stand up." Nurse sharks are known to use the same crevice and cavern over long periods of time. Very hardy animal, live well in aquaria (up to 25 years has been recorded).

 Feeding

Crustacean, snails, bivalves, sea urchins, small fishes.

 Size

Average size between 230 cm and 300 cm, maximum total length about 420 cm.

 Reproduction

Aplacental viviparous (ovoviviparous). Maximum litter size ever recorded: 28 pups. Mating has been documented very well, and is very complex. Sexual maturity is reached with about 230 cm.

 Similar Species

None in the same area of distribution. The closely related species Tawny nurse shark has pointed pectoral fins.

 Endangerment

Status in the IUCN Red List:


No Entry found in Red List.


 Danger to Humans

Potentially dangerous. They are short-sighted and can easely be scared, however harmless by nature.



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