Creature Feature: Great White Shark

Common Facts:

Scientific name – Carcharodon carcharias

Diet – carnivore

Size – 15-20 feet

Weight – 5,000+ pounds

Protection Status – Endangered

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the name, Great White Shark? Jaws, shark attack, predator, etc. While the Great White IS a top predator and carnivore, that deserves respect and space, Great Whites are not as scary as society has portrayed them to be. They are not predators of man.

Great White Sharks are the largest predatory fish in the world. And they definitely have an intimidating look to them. They can reach up to 20 feet in length (sometimes even more!) and over 5,000 pounds. Great Whites have gray upper bodies that help them blend in with the ocean floor, but they get their name from their white bellies. “They have a conical snout, pitch black eyes, a heavy, torpedo-shaped body, and a crescent-shaped, nearly equal-lobed tail fin that is supported on each side by a keel.”

Great Whites are built to hunt. “Their mouths are lined with up to 300 serrated triangular teeth arranged in several rows, and they have an exceptional sense of smell to detect prey.”  Free-diving with these guys is not encouraged, but there are those that have done so and lived to tell the tale. Great White Sharks prey mainly on sea lions, seals, small toothed whales and even elephant seals.

Most attacks on human are not to eat or kill. Great Whites are curious and most “attacks” on humans are just out of curiosity to see what we are/taste like and most incidents are not fatal. Not the most comforting thing to hear, but it’s good to know we are not a normal menu item for Great Whites.

While experts are unsure on the size of the Great White’s population, it is agreed that their numbers have been dropping because of overfishing. They are considered a endangered species, so if you catch one, let it go!

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Sources: http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=38

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/great-white-shark/

Written by: Kari Shirley

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