Nurse sharks are one of the more interesting shark species that can be found in the coastal United States. Adults can grow to be ten feet in length on average, which is fairly small for a shark. They're not a widely fished species, but their tough skin has occasionally made them targets for leather production. In some cases, their meat is also harvested and salted while their liver serves as an oil source.
Nurse Shark Behavior and Temperament
Unlike many other sharks, the nurse shark is relatively docile, and unprovoked attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. This makes them an ideal species to observe for Key West snorkeling hobbyists. The nurse shark is nocturnally active, but during the day, it can be seen resting on the sea floor. One of the most unusual aspects of this shark is that it's the only species that can breathe while sedentary. Whereas other sharks must move constantly in order to drive water through their gills, the nurse shark does this by taking in water through its mouth and pumping it out its gills. Another fascinating aspect of the nurse shark is how it reproduces. It is oviviparous, which means that it gives birth to live young. It is widely known that the young will compete in the womb and eat one another, leaving only the strongest "pups" to be born.
Nurse Shark Feeding
Nurse sharks have a surprisingly diverse diet, more so than most other sharks. Because the shark is a relatively slow mover, it tends to prey on dormant or injured fish. The shark can sometimes be seen resting on its fin tips, which some researchers speculate may be to give the appearance of shelter to attract crustaceans, which the shark then eats. Nurse sharks have also been found to consume coral and algae, which points to an omnivorous nature.