Tawny Sharks Spotted 'Dancing' as They Wait for Dinner

A video shows 20 dancing sharks, wriggling in unison on the sands of Torres Strait beach on Mer Island in Queensland, Australia. The tawny sharks (Nebrius ferrugineus) were filmed by local resident William Bero earlier this year, who uploaded the scene on YouTube on January 23.

Bero told Cairns the website Tropic Now it is not an unusual sight. Tawny sharks frequently approach the beach to wait for pipi shells, which emerge from the sea when the tide rises.

In the video, the sharks appear to almost ignore the shoals of fish convening on the shoreline.

"You'll see them gather at one particular spot and they'll just sit there and wait," he said. "From about September onwards, they sit up right along the beach."

According to the Australian Museum, pipis are a common sight along the Australian coast, found on exposed sandy beaches and the seashore.

These light pink and white-colored molluscs live a few inches below the sea surface, where they burrow into the sand using a muscular foot. Pipis get their name from the Māori language.

Tawny sharks (also known as: madame Xs, rusty catsharks, rusty sharks, sleepy sharks, spitting sharks, tawney nurse sharks, tawney sharks, and tawny nurse sharks) are a species of large, gray-brown nurse sharks that live around the shores of the Indo-Pacific and can reach lengths of up to 10 feet.

According to Fishes of Australia, they feed on small fish and invertebrates, including squid, lobster, and sea urchins that inhabit the sea floor.

These gentle giants do not pose much of a threat to humans and tend to let divers get within touching distance. Though there have been a handful of reported incidents that involved tawny sharks, according to the Florida Museum, none were fatal. The species' strong jaw and sharp teeth should nevertheless be regarded with caution.

The shark is categorized as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. Their narrow range and low reproduction rates make them susceptible to overfishing, but populations remain strong off the Australian coast. Once the sharks have had their fill of pipis, they are seen returning to the sea. According to Bero, these sharks are totems for local families.

"Sharks are totems for families on the Murray Islands," said Bero. "We have respect for everything around us, it's all there for our appreciation and not to destroy or over-fish or do any harm."

"It's our job as custodians to look after our environment and all the animals."

A tawny nurse shark grazes on the surface of Talbot Bay
A video shows 20 sharks "dancing" as they wait for pipis to emerge from the water. Pictured: A tawny nurse shark grazes on the surface of Talbot Bay, Western Australia, accompanied by a shoal of pilot fish. Mickrick/iStock