Nurse Shark

Nurse shark on Saba Bank. Photo credit- Hans Leijnse: SHAPE/DCNAThe Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is not your typical shark. It is a bottom dweller that spends all day resting on the ocean floor or in a rock crevice. Unlike most shark species, it does not need to move to breathe; when resting, it pumps water over its gills by continuously opening and closing its mouth.

A night dive will give you the best chance to see this shark in action. The Nurse Shark becomes active at night when it hunts for food. It prefers small prey such as fish, squid and shrimp because of its small mouth. It has an unusual way of catching prey, which it does by “hoovering” the ocean floor, whereby prey is sucked into its mouth. Its two distinctive barbells, the fleshy appendages that dangle below its nostrils, help the shark locate prey on the ocean floor. It also has small, serrated teeth with which it crushes hard-shelled prey such as sea snails, crab, sea urchins and lobster.

The Nurse Shark has a rounder and flatter body than most other shark species found within the Caribbean, with a broad round head and rounded dorsal fins. While Nurse Sharks are not aggressive towards divers, they can be provoked into biting if disturbed. If you see a Nurse Shark peacefully resting on the ocean floor, please admire it from afar.