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Introducing: The Nurse Shark

Imagine my surprise when I learned this week that there is such a creature called a Nurse Shark! 

This past week I attended a fundraiser for the Philadelphia Chapter of the ALS Foundation at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ.  Part of the event allowed guests to roam the aquarium and enjoy the sea creatures.  I, however, was happy just to enjoy the company of my fellow humans! 

However, a bartender explained to me that the sharks are fed regularly thus minimizing their interest in hunting for dinner inside their tank. She also explained that the shark laying at the bottom of the tank, right in front of the air vent, was a “nurse shark.” I said to her, “Did you just say “Nurse Shark?” And she said, “Yep. That’s what she’s called.” 

Though I was not able to find a staff person to help me understand, I have done some research. 

The scientific name for the nurse shark is Ginglymostoma cirratum. Actually the name is a mix of Greek and Latin and means “curled, hinged mouth” to describe this shark’s somewhat puckered appearance.

The origin of the name “nurse shark” is unclear. It may come from the sucking sound they make when hunting for prey in the sand, which vaguely resembles that of a nursing baby. Or it may derive from an archaic word, nusse, meaning cat shark. The most likely theory though is that the name comes from the Old English word for sea-floor shark: hurse.

They can live up to 25 years and grow to a size of 200 to 33o pounds!  Nurse sharks are nocturnal and will often rest on the sea floor during the day in groups of up to 40 sharks, sometimes piled on top of each other.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like strikingly similar to a bunch of night nurses with whom I once worked!

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