Sharks are one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood fish in the world. These are the apex predators of the ocean, with over 1,000 species roaming virtually every corner of the planet.
Problem is, the biggest misconception about sharks is that every species is inherently dangerous and deadly to humans.
Nurse sharks are arguably one of the lesser known shark species.
When you hear “shark”, you instantly think of great white sharks or tiger sharks with razor sharp teeth and terrifyingly aggressive behavior, but this doesn’t mean every shark species exhibits the same behavior and temperament.
So, if you’re thinking about swimming with nurse sharks and you’re wondering “are nurse sharks dangerous?”, you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know about whether nurse sharks are dangerous!
Are Nurse Sharks Dangerous To Humans?
Let’s set the record straight: Nurse sharks aren’t typically an aggressive shark species to humans, but like all predators, will attack if they feel threatened.
However, it’s pretty uncommon for a nurse shark to attack a human unprovoked, as they are typically a non-aggressive and shy species.
This is one of the main reasons why nurse sharks are so popular to swim with amongst divers.
While they don’t typically like to be in close contact with humans due to their shy behavior, humans will frequently dive into a nurse shark’s habitat because of the limited safety risk.
It all comes down to treating the nurse shark, as with any animal, with respect.
Any apex predator will have the capability to harm a human as well as their prey, so if you’re planning on diving alongside these majestic creatures, then you need to respect that you are infringing on their land/sea.
However, if you swim too close to a nurse shark, this can come across as a threat.
Not only this, but if you dive alongside a nurse shark while they’re hunting their prey, they might mistake you for prey, or assume that you’re threatening their prey, and they might feel provoked to attack.
If a nurse shark attacks a human, it’s going to hurt. These 14-foot-long sharks have extremely strong jaws, filled with thousands of serrated teeth.
While nurse shark attacks are rare, you don’t want to risk getting bitten by one of these sharks.
Nurse Shark Behavior And Temperament
Nurse sharks are notorious for being one of the calmest and least aggressive species of shark. These sharks are nocturnal hunters that use the darkness to their advantage.
To prevent scaring off their prey, they typically hunt alone.
While solitary in the night, they will congregate with up to 40 other nurse sharks during the day, where they will dwell at the sea floor or under a crevice as they rest.
Due to this group-like mentality, nurse sharks aren’t prone to attacking other sharks, at least of their own species.
What Do Nurse Sharks Eat?
Nurse sharks are notorious bottom dwellers, meaning they typically reside at the ocean floor, using their mouths to vacuum their food into their mouths.
They feast on bottom dwelling fish, squid, octopus, crab, lobsters, urchins, shrimp, coral, sea urchins, and conches.
To clear up any misconceptions about nurse sharks and humans, nurse sharks don’t eat humans.
Not only is this because humans don’t reside on the bottom of the ocean floor where the sharks get their food, but humans would be considered too big and too much of a threat to the shark.
So, you don’t have to worry about becoming a nurse shark’s breakfast!
Even if a human was on the ocean floor, a nurse shark won’t even try to eat them.
Nurse sharks navigate their food with a set of barbells, which are two knobs located at the front of their heads, containing taste buds to locate their prey.
They then consume their prey through their relatively small mouths with a powerful suction before crushing it with their teeth.
So, unless a human is the size of an octopus or lobster, then a nurse shark physically won’t be able to eat a person.
How Many People Have Nurse Sharks Killed?
Let’s take a look at some statistics. Nurse sharks have only attacked a total of 9 people, all of whom survived with either minimal or harmful injuries. Nobody has been killed by a nurse shark.
So, if you’re going diving with nurse sharks, the odds of you being attacked by one, let alone killed, are very small. In fact, you’re more likely to be knocked out by a coconut on the beach than be attacked by a nurse shark.
It’s rare for a nurse shark to attack humans unprovoked. Most, if not all, of the 9 attacks happened when a human came too close to the jaws of a nurse shark.
As mentioned before, if they feel threatened (either for their own safety, the threat of losing their prey, or if their territory is under threat), then they have every right to bite and attack.
It’s the same with other safe shark species, such as whale sharks, basking sharks, goblin sharks, and leopard sharks to name a few.
Can I Swim With Nurse Sharks?
If you want to swim with nurse sharks, you’ll be happy to know that they are a safe shark species to dive or snorkel alongside.
There are countless expeditions from diving and snorkeling schools that offer trips to swim alongside the majestic creatures, providing a unique and safe experience that teaches you about the shark species.
It all comes down to respecting the nurse sharks below. You probably won’t want to swim too close to these sharks, because no matter how docile they might appear, they still have the ability to bite when provoked.
So, if you are to swim with nurse sharks, make sure to do it under the supervision of a professional diver that understands the behavior of the sharks.
So, there you have it! Nurse sharks are a fascinating shark species, because they aren’t typically dangerous. As long as you treat them with respect, it’s unlikely for a nurse shark to attack a human.