Dr N. M. Otway
Senior Research Scientist
New South Wales Fisheries
The grey nurse shark, Carcharias taurus (Rafinesque, 1810) is one of four species belonging to the family Odontaspididae (Compagno 1984). The shark has a large, stout, fusiform body with similarly-sized first and second dorsal fins and an asymmetrical caudal fin with a strong ventral lobe. The second dorsal fin is closer to the pelvic fins than it is to the pectoral fins. The head has a flattened-conical snout, small eyes without a nictitating membrane and a long mouth extending behind the eyes. Teeth on the upper and lower jaws are awl-like having long, narrow cusps with single lateral cusplets. Individuals vary in colour from grey to grey-brown dorsally, with a paler off white under belly. Reddish or brownish spots may also occur on the caudal fin and posterior half of the body, particularly in (Compagno 1984, Last & Stevens 1994, Pollard et al. 1996, Otway & Parker 2000).
Grey nurse sharks grow to over 300 cm total length with the largest specimens reported from South Africa - 320 cm (Torres 1991), the east coast of the USA - 318 cm (Bigelow & Schroeder 1948, Compagno 1984) and Brazil - 282 cm (Sadowsky 1970). In SE Australia, Grey nurse sharks grow to at least 320 cm total length (Otway unpubl. data).