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the web of life in southern Africa

Nebrius ferrugineus (Tawny nurse shark)

(Lesson, 1830)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Orectolobiformes > Ginglymostomatidae

Nebrius ferrugineus (Tawny nurse shark) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ]


This large, bulky, plain brown shark has a small mouth, nasal barbels, small comblike cutting teeth in both jaws, and angular fins.


To 3.2 m TL.


East coast off northern Natal and southern Mozambique; widespread in the Indian Ocean and west-central Pacific.




Tropical coral and rocky reefs from the intertidal to 70 m.


A sluggish shark that rests in caves and crevices in the day and prowls reefs at night. Uncommon in the area, possibly a summer migrant into kwaZulu. Bears four young. Feeds on corals, crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans, octopus, squid, sea urchins, and small reef fish, which it sucks into its mouth. Individuals may squirt water at anglers who catch them.

Human Impact

Fished elsewhere.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale