The great white shark is probably the most well-known shark in the world. Unfortunately, the reason this shark is so well-known is because of how it is portrayed in our popular media. Most of us have seen the now classic movie Jaws or have seen other movies and TV shows where great white sharks are portrayed as vicious man eaters. The real truth is, these sharks are only responsible for a very small number of human fatalities each year. While it is true that most shark attacks are done by great white sharks, there are only on average about four fatalities due to shark attacks every year. On the other hand, humans kill around 100 million sharks per year. So who was the real predator?
Just because these sharks aren’t what Hollywood portrays, that doesn’t mean they aren’t interesting. Here are 10 amazing facts about great white sharks that you probably didn’t know.
#1 – Pregnancies & Pups
The gestation period for a great white shark is about 18 months. This limits how much a great white shark is able to reproduce which can cause problems with human fishing taking so many great white sharks out of our oceans every year. Fortunately, the great white shark is able to give life birth to between four and six pups. The average life for a pup is between 1.2 and 1.5 meters.
#2 – Great White Sharks Are Soooo Immature
It takes a great white shark approximately 10 to 12 years to reach maturity. Female great white sharks tend to be approximately 1 meter longer than male great white sharks. The largest a great white shark typically gets is about 6 meters or less. At 6 m they will weigh between 2000 and 3000 kg or about 6600 pounds. Pretty crazy, right? There are unsubstantiated reports of great white sharks over 7 m but this has yet to be proven.
#3 – Warm Bodied
Great white sharks are warm bodied. Unlike humans who were cold-blooded, a sharks temperature can vary widely. Generally, organs are About 13° warmer than the surrounding water temperature. They are able to keep their internal organs warm by using and transferring muscle heat.
#4 – High Fat Content Is Crucial
Great white sharks prefer to feed on seals and whale carcasses due to the high fat content. With a high fat content diets they are able to turn the fat into energy and also provide a way to warm their bodies and burn energy for warmth.
#5 – Hunters By Day
Many people think the great white shark would prefer to hunt at night but the opposite is actually true. The great white shark relies on eyesight to properly fund their prey. Ironically enough, when a shark attacks its prey their eyes actually close as a protection mechanism. This means that for the last second or two before the shark gets its prey, the shark is not actually able to see its prey.
#6 – Beware Of Murky Waters
While a great white shark does prefer to have some visibility, they also seem to enjoy hunting in murky water where they can get some cover. This is a true predatory animal who likes to strike without warning. Murky water helps to avoid being spotted and leads to a more successful hunt.
#7 – Picky Eaters
Once a great white shark reaches about 2.5 m long, they will only eat sea mammals. Prior to reaching this size, a great white shark will mostly feed on small fish. However, just like clockwork, once they reach 2.5 m it is all about consuming sea mammals and their favorite meal is of course the seal.
#8 – Slow Reproduction Endangers The Great White Shark
Since the great white shark is only able to reproduce every 18 months, the population of this shark species has been in decline. While the great white shark can deliver between about four and six parts per pregnancy, many of the pups do not survive and many sharks who are pregnant are captured in the human fishery industry. While protections have been put in place, it has not stops the decline due to the illegal black market associated with the shark fin soup industry.
#9 – Yes, Great White Sharks Get Cancer
There is a rumor that has worked its way around the Internet that great white sharks and sharks in general do not get cancer. This rumor has actually been around for many decades and has unfortunately led to an increase in shark fin soup as people believe it has some sort of cancer blocking attributes. This is a myth and there is much evidence that sharks do get cancer.
#10 – They Aren’t Beach Goers
On occasion, great white sharks will be seen near shores and unfortunately there are rare occasions where a human is attacked by a great white shark. However, great white sharks generally do not like to be near the shore and will often stay out in the deeper waters of the ocean. In addition, when a human is attacks usually there is only one bite because as soon as a shark realizes a bit a human, the shark swims away. It is usually a case of mistaken identity and sharks do not have much of an appetite for humans.