Nurse shark

Ginglymostoma cirratum

Family Ginglymostomatidae - sharks, nurse

Body elongate, head broad, blunt, short; color yellow to yellowish green to reddish brown on back, yellowish on belly, may have dark spots or saddles (more apparent in juveniles); last 2 gill slits behind origin of pectoral fin and very close together; long barbel on each nostril, nostrils connected to mouth by nasal grooves; mouth close to tip of snout, well in front of eyes; eyes small, behind mouth; teeth small, conical, with multiple cusps, largest in center; 2 dorsal fins set far back on body, origin of 1st above the pectoral fin, 2nd dorsal slightly smaller than 1st; all fins with rounded tips; caudal fin long, low, narrow, only slightly extended lower lobe.
Similar Species
The long barbels on the nostrils help distinguish nurse sharks from other sharks. Also the 2 close set posterior gill slits, the 2 dorsals fins set far back on the body, the 2nd slightly smaller than 1st and the lack of a well developed lower lobe on the caudal fin separate this species from others.
Gulf and bay, bottom dwellers
Maximum Size
430 cm (14 ft), common to 340 (11 ft)
Fin Element Counts
Other Common Names
Previous Scientific Names
State size/bag limits
Minimum size 64 in.; bag limit is 1 shark/day, including sharpnose, blacktips, bonnetheads, and all other allowable shark species; See Shark Regulations; Check for state record.