Carcharias Taurus is the Latin name for what we Aussies commonly call the grey nurse shark. In the USA they call them sand tigers and in South Africa they call them ragged tooth sharks.
The grey nurse shark is a species of shark found along the East Coast of Australia from Wolf Rock here in South East Queensland and further down the coast of New South Wales. Wolf Rock is the most important aggregation site for these animals as it is the only known aggregation site for the animals. After the mating season finishes each December all the female sharks make their way to Wolf Rock for their gestation period which can last from between 9 – 12 months.
There is still a lot that is not known about these sharks so scientific research and study is ongoing to ensure their protection. The grey nurse shark is a slow breeder, the slowest of any shark species. In fact, the female shark is only able to reproduce every second year but gives birth to 2 pups, one from each uterus. To start each uterus carries around 14 baby sharks but they perform inter-uterine cannibalism, eating each other until the last one is left. Survival of the fittest!!
The pups are born live but as far as it’s known they fend for themselves straight from birth. Starting around 80cm to 1 metre in size they grow to a maximum length of around 3.5 metres. The male sharks mature at around 4-5 years but he female doesn’t mature until around 6-7 years.
The Grey Nurse Shark was the first protected shark in the world when it was protected under New South Wales legislation in 1984. In the past they were commercially fished and a great number of them were killed by spearfishers in the early 60’s as they were thought to be “man-eaters”. A misconception that nearly led to their extinction.
The biggest threat to their survival now comes from fishing, hence the protection status of Wolf Rock. Although fishermen do not target this species, the grey nurse shark will prey on fish that have been caught with small hooks and these hooks can remain the grey nurse sharks stomach where they can pierce the stomach wall causing sepsis.
Wolf Rock Dive Centre continues to support this research by providing survey information via Grey Nurse Shark Watch.