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The Great White Shark

Great White Shark

The Great White Shark is best known for his roll in the movie Jaws. This shark is known as the most dangerous in the Ocean, which is a true fact. But the bloodthirsty image of this magnificent creature is mostly dreamed up in the movies and for television ratings. In reality, Great White attacks are extremely rare, even when people swim in close proximity to them.

This creature is also known as the Carcharodon Carcharias, White Shark, White Pointer, or the White Death. This truly is an amazing creature and one of the most advanced predators in the animal kingdom. They look scary, are very powerful, have exceptional speed and maneuverability, and are expert hunters. No wonder Hollywood portrays sharks as enemies! I guess you could say, a Great White Shark is the king of all sharks. And in general, it is one of the oldest and most adaptable creatures on Earth.

The name Great White comes from their snow-white ventral sides, however the dorsal sides of their bodies are not white. In fact, the coloration of the Great Whites' top portions are usually gray in order for them to blend in with the seafloor, however, they can also be dark blue, brown or black. Great White Sharks have the typical torpedo-shape, aiding them with efficient swimming skills; these exceptional swimming abilities are only heightened with their powerful tails, which can propel them through the water at speeds of 15 mph (24 kmph)! It's awesome that these fish are such great swimmers considering how heavy they are; their livers alone can take up 24% of their body weight. These massive, sleek sharks even have the ability to lurch out of the water with no problem whatsoever. If you've ever seen footage of a Great White on television, you're probably already familiar with their incredible jumping skills.

Great White Sharks On National Geographic

Busting the Myth About Great White Shark Attacks

Great White Shark attacks are extremely rare, even when humans are swimming nearby. Humans are not specifically targeted by sharks and that includes the Great White. In the Mediterranean Sea, for example, there have only been 31 confirmed attacks against humans in the last two centuries, most non-fatal. They simply aren't interested in us.

Why Attacks Happen

First of all, it is almost never an "attack" against humans. Sharks, like other fish, will exhibit a behavior called test biting. Basically, they were interested in what they saw and thought you might be a food source. After an initial test bite on a human, sharks almost never return again. That's why fatalities from shark bites are so rare (most fatalities are caused due to blood loss from an initial test bite).

But sometimes, on extremely rare occasions, sharks will attack a human. It is believed this only happens when the shark thinks your silhouette is a seal. But again, when the shark discovers you're a person and not a seal, they quickly retreat.

We simply have too many bones for a shark to digest and they much prefer large, fatty animals like seals.

Finally, sharks by nature are not very territorial. So even when you're swimming within very close proximity, they will leave you alone. The biggest issue when people see a shark is they panic. Splashing around in the water makes you look like an injured animal (remember those "test bites" I was talking about?). If you remain calm and slowly swim away, chances are they won't even notice you.

Do you still think the Great White is a man killing machine?

The Softer Side Of The Great White Shark

Size Of A Great White

The Great White Shark is one of the largest sharks in the ocean. Measuring up to 6.5 meters (more than 21 feet) is not uncommon. The largest Great White ever measured was over 7 meters long (23 feet). And get this, they can weigh 2 or even 3 metric tons in weight (that's over 6,500 pounds)! That's one big fish! Females are typically longer than males.

Great White Teeth

Great White Sharks are famous for their teeth. Oftentimes when one thinks of a Great White, their large mouths and hundreds of huge, sharp teeth are the first images that come to mind. Believe it or not, these sharks have several rows that can hold up to approximately 300 serrated (jagged) teeth in their mouths at one time. In fact, Great Whites can loose up to 1,000 teeth in a lifespan! These factors make it so easy to understand why most are absolutely and completely terrified of these incredible predators.

Sense of Smell

The other features of the Great White are just as awesome and helpful as their mouths. Their sense of smell is so unbelievably acute, that they have the ability to smell a single drop of blood in 25 gal (100 L) of water. Not only that, but Great White Sharks can sense blood in the water up to 3 mi (5 km) away! This shark's sense of smell is almost unreal. You would think that this was more than enough to aid the Great White Shark in finding and demolishing prey, but no, there's more. They can also sense animal generated electromagnetic fields.

Eye Protection

The animals that become victims of the Great White are not known to just give up and die; they fight for their lives. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find scars and scratches upon the snouts of many Great Whites. Luckily for the sharks, they have yet another mechanism concerning their eyes that helps to protect them from struggling prey, or anything else that may harm them. These sharks can actually roll their eyes back, thus preventing the most vital parts of the eye from being scratched. How cool is that!

Average Age Of A Great White

Most Great Whites can live up to 30 years. But there is still quite a bit of mystery surrounding the growth, development, and social behaviors as well as how offspring are raised (if they are "raised" at all, that is).

Its roots can be traced back to ancient times. The Great White may have derived from the Megalodon Shark but others believe the Mako Shark was its predecessor.

Offspring

The reproduction of the Great White remains a giant mystery. We don't know very much about its mating habits and until recently, could never observe an actual birth. Here's what we do know...

These sharks are Viviparous, which means that the eggs evolve in the uterus until birth. The pregnancy period is about 11 months, and birth is in the spring or summer. There is a cannibalism phenomenon which occurs in the womb. Yes, you read that right. The larger "pups" actually kill and feed on the underdeveloped ones. Even in the womb they are hunting!

Habitat

Although Great White Sharks love the coastal areas in all oceans from all over the world, they typically live on the outskirts of shore waters. Sometimes, they stray into the deep Ocean and are even found in depths of 1000 meters (3,280ft) or more! But their preferred water temperature is from 15C to 24C (59F to 75F), so most of the time they stay in shallow waters and near the surface.

Great White Shark Habitat

Great White Shark Habitat Map

Hunting Behavior

Great White Sharks are very smart hunters. Generally, they use specific strategies to catch their prey, such as surprising their prey from below. By far, their preferred prey is a seal. But they also seem to like sea lions, some species of dolphins (mostly Humpback Dolphins) and select species of whales.

Great White Shark Sensory System

Like all other shark species, Great White Sharks have a special sense of feeling in what is known as the Ampullae of Lerenzini. Basically, they are electro receptors, forming a network of jelly filled pores.

This electro receptor allows them to track their prey through their mouths. So whenever a potential prey is moving, the Great White can pick up on its electric field.

Their sensitivity is so great that they can actually sense a half a billionth of 1 volt. That means, if you're in the ocean and remain completely still, the shark can pick up on your beating heart from several miles away. Isn't that amazing!?

Competition for Food

When it comes to the way in which Great White Sharks feed, there is a very little known factor that is highly intriguing. These sharks do not like to fight over food. Now while I personally don't want to have to fight for food either, many may be a bit surprised to learn that Great Whites feel the same way because of their vicious image. However, when there is more than one of these sharks in the vicinity, and only enough food for one, they have a tail-slapping contest. The sharks slap the water's surface as they swim around each other, thus sending a spray of water in the direction of the opposing shark(s). The Great White who slaps the most wins the meal.

Socialization

The structure and behavior of the Great White social network is still a big mystery.

Normally, they are mavericks and loners. Free thinkers who spend much time alone. When they do meet or swim in groups, they typically avoid conflict and dominance battles.

However, there are places, such as the waters around Africa, where Great White Sharks show a distinct hierarchy. Females tend to dominate males and larger sharks dominate smaller ones. Local sharks seem to dominate newcomers and in order to show strength, more dominant sharks may give warning bites to the submissive's. As with many other predators, cannibalism does occur, although it's believed to be a rare occurrence.

Human Interaction

Although there are many movies and television shows depicting the horrors of Great White Sharks and the horrible things that they do to humans, the truth is these sharks really are not interested in human flesh. There have definitely been shark attacks, however, it is very rare for attacks to be fatal to the human. When a Great White attacks a human, it is usually a mistake. People can very easily be mistaken as a sea lion or a seal from below; therefore the shark goes after them not realizing who they are. This is why these attacks rarely end in the death of a person. Once the shark realizes that they are indeed attacking a person, they back off. This may not be what is shown in thriller movies, but it is the truth.

Not only are these sharks not interested in eating humans, but also it is in people's best interests to not desire to eat Great White Sharks. They have extremely high levels of mercury in their bodies, thus making Great White meat unsafe for human consumption. Despite the fact that humans do not typically eat Great Whites for this reason, they still happen to be overfished and Bycatch victims, thus making them an endangered species. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of available information regarding the actual population of these sharks, but it is believed by some scientists that there are less than 10,000 Great White Sharks left in the world. We can only hope that this problem is soon resolved as they play a very important role in the fragile aquatic ecosystem.

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