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Grey Nurse Shark

This magnificent set of jaws from the museum’s fish collection is testament to the presence of the Grey Nurse Shark in Port Phillip Bay during the late 19th century.

In the Prodromus of the Zoology of Victoria, Frederick McCoy refers to them as being ‘one of the largest and most ferocious of our Sharks, and so common as to be an object of great terror to bathers, who occasionally suffer grievous lacerations when caught swimming even near shore’. McCoy goes on to state that the ‘Enormous jaws of this species may often be seen in the fishermen’s huts along the shore from Picnic Point to Mordialloc’.

The Grey Nurse Shark is all but absent from Victorian waters nowadays, and the species is protected in many parts of Australia. Perhaps their demise was hastened during McCoy’s time. The government of the day, concerned about ‘the great quantity of fish fit for the table devoured by this species’, offered a reward to fishermen based on the length of each Grey Nurse Shark killed.

Jaws of the Grey Nurse Shark
 Jaws of the Grey Nurse Shark

 Illustration of the Grey Nurse Shark

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Jaws of the Grey Nurse Shark (Carcharias taurus) Image source: Museum Victoria

© Museum Victoria Australia