Alternate name: White Shark
Family: Lamnidae, Mackerel Sharks view all from this family
Description The great white shark has a robust large conical snout. The upper and lower lobes on the tail fin are approximately the same size (like some mackerel sharks). Great whites display countershading, having a white underside and a grey dorsal area (sometimes in a brown or blue shade) that gives an overall "mottled" appearance. The coloration makes it difficult for prey to spot the shark because it breaks up the shark's outline when seen from the side. From above, the darker shade blends with the sea and from below it exposes a minimal silhouette against the sunlight. Great white sharks, like many other sharks, have rows of serrated teeth behind the main ones, ready to replace any that break off. When the shark bites it shakes its head side to side, helping the teeth saw off large chunks of flesh.
Warning A voracious predator known to attack humans, this shark is sometimes considered the most dangerous shark in the world. Forty-one attacks on humans by White Sharks occurred off California between 1950 and 1982, but only four of these were fatal.
Similar Species Mako sharks (genus Isurus) similar but with more slender bodies.
Habitat Ocean or bay shallows, Open ocean.
Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, Texas, California, Northwest, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, Alaska.
Discussion According to a recent study, California great whites have migrated to an area between Baja California and Hawaii known as White Shark CafÈ, to spend at least 100 days before migrating back to Baja. On the journey out, they swim slowly and dive down to around 900 m (3,000 ft). After they arrive, they change behavior and do short dives to about 300 m (1,000 ft) for up to 10 minutes. Another white shark tagged off the South African coast swam to the southern coast of Australia and back within the year. This refuted traditional theories that white sharks are coastal territorial predators and opens up the possibility of interaction between shark populations that were previously thought to be discrete. Why they migrate and what they do at their destination is still unknown. Possibilities include seasonal feeding or mating.
Great white sharks are carnivorous, and prey upon fish (e.g. tuna, rays, other sharks), cetaceans (i.e., dolphins, porpoises, whales), pinnipeds (e.g. seals, fur seals, and sea lions), sea turtles, sea otters, and seabirds. Great whites have also been known to eat objects that they are unable to digest. Upon approaching a length of nearly 4 metres (13 ft), great white sharks begin to target predominately marine mammals for food. These sharks prefer prey with a high content of energy-rich fat. Shark expert Peter Klimley used a rod-and-reel rig and trolled carcasses of a seal, a pig, and a sheep to his boat in the South Farallons. The sharks attacked all three baits but rejected the sheep carcass.