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To see photographs of the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) click here.

Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus)

Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) sand tiger shark

All images and text on this page are copyright protected: © 2010 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Lamniformes
Family: Odontaspididae
Genus: Carcharias
Species: taurus
Taxonomic name: Carcharias taurus

Based purely on its fearsome looks this shark was once blamed for most shark attacks on humans and was hunted and fished to near extinction. Today the docile Grey Nurse Shark, or Sand Tiger Shark, enjoys protected status in some Australian States. It is the first shark in the world to be protected by law.

The small head of the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) with small glowering eyes and needle-sharp snaggle teeth protruding from a gaping mouth, is followed by an almost humped back with similar-sized dorsal, pelvic and anal fins. Its dark grey colour merges into pure white on the belly with small coin-sized brown spots on the flanks. The face and tail, with a long upper lobe, distinguish this species from others.

Habitat and Habits

Grey Nurse Sharks can be found from the surface down to 200 m deep around the entire Australian coastline except for Tasmania. They are normally seen during the day in sheltered gutters or caves where they hover almost motionless, a talent made possible by their ability to swallow air at the surface which counteracts the natural tendancy for all sharks to sink . These sharks are quite sociable, often gathering together in small to huge schools of mixed sex and size so closely that they appear to be stacked like a cord of wood.

Their social and curious nature allows divers to make close contact but they should never be cornered or harassed as they will bite with lightening speed if threatened. From a motionless hover they can accelerate instantly to catch fast-swimming kingfish or salmon, so fast in fact that their tail creates a cavity in the water causing a deep boom to be heard.

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