Nurse Sharks

Nature

Nurse Sharks

Nurse Shark

Nurse Sharks are known as Tribon di santu in papiamentu. The Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) is not your typical shark. It is a bottom dweller that often spends all day resting on the ocean floor or in a rock crevices and are more commonly seen on the East Coast of Bonaire. Unlike most shark species, the Nurse Shark does not need to move to breathe; when resting, it pumps water over its gills by continuously opening and closing its mouth.

Your best chance of seeing a nurse shark in action is on a night dive or an East Coast dive. The Nurse Shark is a nocturnal predator that feeds on small prey such as fish, squid and shrimp because of its small mouth. It has an unusual way of catching prey: it does by “hoovering” the ocean floor, whereby prey is sucked into its mouth. Its two distinctive barbells, the fleshy appendages that dangle below its nostrils, help the shark locate prey on the ocean floor. It also has small, serrated teeth with which it crushes hard-shelled prey such as sea snails, crab, sea urchins and lobster.

The Nurse Shark has a rounder and flatter body than most other shark species found within the Caribbean, with a broad round head and rounded dorsal fins. While Nurse Sharks are not aggressive towards divers, they can be provoked into biting if disturbed. If you see a Nurse Shark peacefully resting on the ocean floor, please admire it from afar.