Juvenile Nurse Shark In The Mangroves

Nurse shark on the sea floor under mangroves – ©Jake Katel

Nurse sharks. They use their mouth as a vacuum to suck up seafood on the sea floor, and they’re not here to take your temperature.

They can be found in the open ocean, the seagrass flats, or hiding out under mangroves, usually as juveniles, when their smaller body sizes are offered protection from other bigger fish by the many interlocking roots of the trees, and here they can learn to hunt the lobsters, crabs, snails, shrimp, and other assorted native creatures that make up their diet.

I ran across this little shark while checking out the mangroves in Key Largo. As you can see in the video, there’s a little Remora giving it a car wash, feasting on parasites on the shark’s skin.

Though the species are common, this is a somewhat rare glimpse of one just chilling as a youngster in the mangroves doing its thing and not being bothered by the camera. Usually they get spooked and run off so enjoy the view.

Nurse sharks are not human aggressive, but they can and will hit if provoked. They don’t really bite because their mouth is built for suction, and they eat by hovering and inhaling their prey, then using thousands of saw teeth to tear them up and swallow. So if you hear of someone getting bit by a nurse shark, it actually just hoovers up on them like a vacuum full of jagged razor blades. They’re not the meanest fish out there, but they can definitely do some damage if you make them mad.

Full grown nurse sharks grow up to around ten to fourteen feet and weigh hundreds of pounds.

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