Carcharodon carcharias, more commonly known as the great white shark, is one of more than 450 shark species and is the largest of all predatory sharks in the ocean today. Striking fear with their size and efficiency as predators they rarely attack humans.
Despite their notorious reputation, we have little factual knowledge of the lives of these incredible species. There’s so much more to learn about the great white’s biology, behaviour, and never-ending curiosity! These interesting facts about the Great White shark will help us in our quest for knowledge about these fascinating sea creatures…
Great whites are torpedo-shaped with powerful tails that can propel them through the water at up to 15 miles per hour.
Found in cool, coastal waters around the world, great whites are the largest predatory fish on Earth.
Great white sharks can detect one drop of blood in 25 gallons (100 l) or water and they can sense even a little blood up to 3 miles (5 km) away.
They use their acute sense of smell to detect blood using an organ called the olfactory bulb.
Great whites are known to take very deep dives, probably to feed on slow-moving fishes and squids in the cold waters of the deep sea.
They have a specialized blood vessel structure, called a counter-current exchanger that allows them to maintain a body temperature that is higher than the surrounding water.
Of the 100-plus annual shark attacks worldwide, a third to a half is attributed to great white sharks. Most of these, however, are not fatal.
Research finds that great whites, which are naturally curious, often “sample bite” then release their human target. It indicates that humans are not actually on the great white’s menu.
Fatal attacks, experts say, are typically cases of mistaken identity: Swimmers and surfers can look a lot like their favourite prey, seals when seen from below.
Great white sharks are very curious and will often poke their heads out of the water or follow boats just to see what’s happening, a behaviour called spyhopping.
Because of this natural curiosity, great whites are known to approach boats to look at people. This is not an aggressive behaviour, it’s just the shark’s way of seeing what you are.
People, on the other hand, capture too many great whites through targeted fisheries or accidentally in other fisheries.
Scientists generally consider great whites to be vulnerable to extinction.
Great whites mate via internal fertilization and give live birth to a small number of large young (over three feet/one meter).
While in their mother’s womb, young great whites swallow their teeth. They may do this to reutilize calcium and other minerals.
Though they give live birth, great whites don’t connect to their young through a placenta. Instead, during the gestation period, the mother provides her young with unfertilized eggs that they actively eat for nourishment.
After they are born, young great whites are already natural predators, and they eat coastal fishes.
A baby shark is called a pup. When the pup is born, it is 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 2.5 m) long and completely able to take care of itself.
According to a 2014 study, the lifespan of great white sharks is estimated to be as long as 70 years or more, well above previous estimates.
There is no reliable population data for the great white shark, but scientists agree that their number is decreasing precipitously.
Great white sharks are known to be highly migratory, with individuals making long migrations every year.
As large and powerful predators, great white sharks play an important role at the top of the marine food chain.
Stationed on the South African coast, Shark Spotters have added a new tool to their trade, employing drones to get a closer look at what lies below the water at Cape Town‘s popular beaches.
Shark fins are unique and South African scientists are using them to identify individual sharks without using tags.
In 1991, the fishing and exploitation of great white sharks became illegal in South Africa, the first country to protect great white sharks.