The Tawny Nurse Shark (Nebrius ferrugineus) is a marine (saltwater) reef shark – a cartilaginous fish – in the Ginglymostomatidae family. It is not a bony fish. Cartilage is elastic tissue, like the human ear and the human nose.
The Tawny Nurse Shark has a long cylindrical grey-brown body with a broad, flattened head. It has pointed-tipped dorsal fins (back fins) and narrow pectoral fins. Its eyes are small and far apart, on each side of its head (not in the front of its face). It has a pair of long, thin barbels (protuberances) near its nostrils. It has a small mouth with overlapping fan-shaped teeth that have a small sharp point. It has four or five gills on each side of its body so that it can breathe (like fish).
It measures about 320 centimetres (126 inches) long, which is about 10 feet long.
The Tawny Nurse Shark is native to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, in waters near Japan, Taiwan, Madagascar, and Australia. It prefers to stay near the coastline in shallow reefs and lagoons. It likes areas with seagrass.
It is nocturnal, active mainly at night. It rests on the ocean floor or in caves during the day. It often rests with other sharks, up to 20 individuals.
It eats mainly octopus. It swims slowly on the bottom of the ocean, poking its head into rock crevices looking for an octopus. When it finds one, it sucks it into its mouth, even though it has powerful jaws and sharp teeth. It may also eat fish, crabs, urchins, and coral.
Larger sharks eat the Tawny Nurse Shark, such as the Bull Shark, the Tiger Shark, or the Hammerhead Shark. The Tawny Nurse Shark can slowly change its colour to blend into the colour of the ocean floor to camouflage itself.
The Tawny Nurse Shark is placental and viviparous, which means that its eggs hatch inside the mother. The female has 1-4 eggs, but generally gives birth to one or two live young.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM