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NEFSC Apex Predators Program

nurse shark Nurse shark

NURSE SHARK

Ginglymostoma cirratum

SIZE

To about 9 ft (2.7 m).

DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS

  • Mouth near tip of snout with conspicuous nasal barbels on each side; deep grooves connecting nostrils with mouth
  • First and second dorsal and anal fins broadly rounded; second dorsal fin nearly as large as first dorsal fin
  • First dorsal fin originating well behind pectoral fins and over or behind origin of pelvic fins
  • Caudal fin with no distinct lower lobe
  • Color dark brown to yellow-brown above; lighter below, occasionally with yellowish hue on underside; juveniles often with black spots
  • Very small eyes
  • No interdorsal ridge

DISTRIBUTION

Rhode Island to Brazil, including Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Rare north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

HABITAT

Coastal; bottom dwelling; often in or close to coral reefs; young in very shallow water; adults in progressively deeper water.

SIMILAR SPECIES

Sand tiger and lemon shark have caudal fins with distinct lower lobe; lack nasal barbels.

MORE INFORMATION

Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History


Guide to Sharks, Tunas, & Billfishes of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Text descriptions taken from:
Guide to Sharks, Tunas, & Billfishes
of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

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(File Modified Aug. 08 2017)