Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)


Class: Elasmobranchii
Order: Lamniformes
Family:    Lamnidae
Size:    Length: 10 to 21 feet (3 to 6.4 m)
Weight: Up to 7,300 pounds (3,311 kg)
Diet: Seals, sea lions, sea otters, porpoises, salmon, hake, halibut, mackerel, tuna, other sharks, sea turtles, seabirds
Distribution: Temperate and subtropical oceans worldwide
Young:  4 to 10 pups every two or more years
Animal Predators:  None
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Young: Pups
Lifespan: Up to 30 years of age or more in the wild



         Scientists believe that male great white sharks change sex when they gets to a certain size, becoming females. 

         In New South Wales, Australia, the maximum fine for killing a great white is $20,000 and/or six months in prison.

         Although an aggressive predator, the great white has been described as shy by divers who have reported it to swim away in the opposite direction when approached.

         The scientific name for the great white shark comes from the Greek words carcharos, meaning ragged, and odon, meaning tooth.


Great white sharks have a torpedo-shaped body, black eyes, a pointed snout, large fins, a V-shaped tail and large triangular teeth. They are mostly grey or bronze with a white underbelly. They are the largest known predatory fish. 



Great whites are mostly found in temperate seas, where they often lie on the bottom of the ocean, camouflaged by their grey colour. They are usually found in coastal and offshore waters of continental shelves, but occasionally venture into shallow waters. Great whites are highly migratory.


Feeding Habits

When prey swims above a great white, the shark swims swiftly to the surface, and then tentatively mouths it, presumably to find out the fat content and to decide whether or not to eat it. White sharks tend to be picky eaters whose favourite meals are elephant seals and sea lions (who have 50 percent body fat). They also feed on salmon, hake, halibut, mackerel, tuna, other sharks, sea turtles, seabirds, sea otters and porpoises. These sharks have a high metabolism and burn a high amount of calories; therefore they need the fat to survive. Once a white shark has prey in its mouth, it carries it underwater until the victim is weakened from loss of blood. The shark then swallows it whole or tears it into pieces before eating it, since they do not chew food. Usually when sharks bite a human, they spit it out and may not even clamp down. Most scientists believe this is because most humans have too much muscle and not enough fat to be appealing to a shark. People who wish to avoid sharks are advised not to swim in areas where there are large seal colonies and to stay away from the surface.



White sharks move to inshore coastal waters before giving birth, sometime from spring to summer. Females hold eggs inside their bodies for 12 months. The pups hatch inside the mother and are born live, fully formed and ready to hunt. White shark pups measure approximately five feet (1.5 m) long at birth and have a full set of teeth. The pups feed mainly on fish, graduating to marine mammals when they get older. 



Great white sharks are widely feared, mainly because of films that have portrayed them as fierce predators of men, but in truth, fatal attacks by sharks on humans are rare. White sharks are not territorial, and when one makes a kill, other white sharks may come and share, with no aggression shown between the sharks. They usually swim alone but sometimes group together around a large or concentrated food source. 



The white shark is protected in many places around the world. South Africa was the first to protect this species in 1992, followed by Namibia, the Maldives, Florida and California and Australia. Although fear of great whites have caused them to be hunted in great numbers, many people now realize that these sharks are important to the ecosystem. For instance, they eat seals, which eat salmon. A drop in shark populations would be sure to lead to an increase of seals, which could create a serious problem for the salmon fishing industry. 



Great White Shark Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US