Great White Shark
Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is a streamlined
swimmer and a ferocious predator with 3,000 teeth at any one
time. This much-feared fish has a torpedo-shaped body, a pointed
snout, a crescent-shaped tail, 5 gill slits, no fin spines,
an anal fin, and 3 main fins: the dorsal fin (on its back)
and 2 pectoral fins (on its sides). When the shark is near
the surface, the dorsal fin and part of the tail are visible
above the water.
Only the underbelly of the great white shark is actually
white; its top surface is gray to blue gray. This is useful
in hunting its prey. The great white usually strikes from
below and its grayish top coloration blends in with the dark
water, enabling it to approach the prey unobserved.
Great whites average 12-16 feet long (3.7-4.9 m) long. The
biggest great white shark on record was 23 feet (7 m) long,
weighing about 7,000 pounds (3200 kg). Females are larger
than males, as with most sharks. Shark pups can be over 5
feet (1.5 m) long at birth.
Great white sharks have been observed along the coastlines
of California to Alaska, the east coast of the USA and most
of the Gulf coast, Hawaii, most of South America, South Africa,
Australia (except the north coast), New Zealand, the Mediterranean
Sea, West Africa to Scandinavia, Japan, and the eastern coastline
of China and southern Russia.
It is unclear how much a consummate increase in fishing for
Great Whites had to do with the decline of Great White population
from the 1970s to the present. No accurate numbers on population
are available, but populations have clearly declined to a
point at which the Great White is now considered endangered.
Their reproduction is slow, with sexual maturity occurring
at about nine years of age, such that population can take
a long time to rise.
More than any documented attack, Steven Spielberg's 1975
film Jaws solidified the image of the Great White as a "man
eater" in the public mind. While Great Whites have been
responsible for occasional fatalities in humans, they typically
do not target humans as prey: for example, in the Mediterranean
Sea there were 31 confirmed attacks against humans in the
last two centuries, only a small number of them deadly. Many
incidents seem to be caused by the animals "test-biting"
out of curiosity. Great White Sharks are known to perform
test-biting with buoys, flotsam, and other unfamiliar objects
as well, and might grab a human or a surfboard with their
mouth (their only tactile organ) in order to determine what
kind of object it might be.