May 12th is celebrated around the world as nurse’s day! In appreciation of the tireless work they do to help us heal we’re going to share some interesting facts about a different type of nurse.
Say hello to a relatively docile species of bottom dwelling shark; the nurse shark. As much as we would like to see nurse sharks carrying medicine and helping their fish friends feel better, the actual origin of their name is unknown. It likely came about from an archaic word, nusse, meaning cat shark or from the Old English word for sea-floor shark: hurse. Another theory is that their name comes from the unmistakable and unique slurping sound they make as they suck prey from the sand resembling the sound of a baby nursing.
Nurse sharks are viviparous, which means that the eggs develop in the uterus of a female until they are ready to give birth, which is usually within 6 months. About 30 pups are born at a time and even though they are about 12 inches at birth they can grow up to 14 feet and weight about 150 kilograms. They have an average lifespan of 25 years and they are nocturnal.
During the day a group of about 40 sharks sleep huddled up together under ledges and are sometimes even found piled up on top of each other. However, during the night they are solitary hunters catching prey such as sea snails, spiny lobsters, crabs, shrimps, sea urchins, octopi, squids and other small fish.
Unlike most fish, nurse sharks can breathe while remaining motionless by facing against the flow of water and pumping water through their mouth and gills. They are also smooth to the touch and have the simplest type of tooth arrangement found in sharks with no overlapping teeth.
They are not aggressive and do not attack unless they are provoked, so always remember that when we go into their territory we have to play by their rules.