Creature Feature: Interview with a Nurse Shark

Creature Feature: Interview with a Nurse Shark

What do you go by? You can call me Florence Nightingale. I’m a nurse shark (aka Ginglymostoma cirratum), and we’re a largely nocturnal species.

What’s the “nurse” part about? We don’t know for sure. It might be because we act pretty relaxed, for sharks. It might come from the slurping noises we make as we cruise the shallow ocean bottom, vacuuming fish into our mouths and crushing them in our rows of teeth. 

What’s your bedtime? Around 8 am.

When do you usually get up? Around 11pm

Do you have to swim all the time, like while you’re asleep? No! Some other sharks (like great whites) have to keep swimming, because that’s the only way they can keep oxygen flowing to their gills. Nurses have figured out a second way to breathe that lets us just lay on the bottom (earning us the nickname “couch potato” shark). We can also “walk” the ocean floor on our pectoral fins.

Do you bite people? Yes, so please give me my space! Nurses are docile by shark standards, and we keep to ourselves — but we’ve bitten humans who bothered us. Our bites are no joke!

How old are you? I don’t know my age, but I’ve been here a long time so I’m probably pretty old. Let’s call it 20 in shark years, 80 in human years.

How did you get to Aquatica? Aquatica’s first owner, Mario, built this shark pool and brought me here — but I don’t know where Mario found me. Wild nurse sharks live in tropical and subtropical water, so this pool is heated around 75 degrees.

What do you do for fun? Eat, swim around looking for more to eat. 

What’s for breakfast/dinner? We eat raw tilapia, smelt, and octopus... yumm!

Are you anyone else’s breakfast/dinner? I’ve heard American alligators and crocodiles like to eat nurse sharks. Fortunately, Aquatica doesn’t have reptiles.

What are those two knobs dangling off your face? They’re called barbells, and they have taste buds. We nurses drag them along the ocean bottom as we browse for food. 

What’s your favorite color? Blood red.

What’s your favorite movie? Jaws (duh). 

What’s the deal with the other shark in this pool? The other shark is a 4 foot long black tip shark.

How did this 28-inch grouper end up sharing a pool with two sharks?  Groupie’s an unplanned rescue*. She’s too big to live anywhere else, and too big for either of us to eat.

Have you had other pool-mates? I plead the fifth

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