12 Interesting Facts About the Great White Shark that You Didn't Know

The great white shark is an endothermic animal, meaning it's warm-blooded. This allows it to remain active in cold waters. Discover more curiosities about it in the following paragraph.
12 Interesting Facts About the Great White Shark that You Didn't Know
Georgelin Espinoza Medina

Written and verified by the biologist Georgelin Espinoza Medina.

Last update: 09 November, 2023

The world’s oceans are home to a large predator, which is much feared even by humans. This famous animal, which has starred in several movies as a villain of the seas, has striking characteristics that you may not be aware of. Do you want to explore a dozen interesting facts about the white shark, also known as the Carcharodon carcharias?

This predator has a fusiform body, a conical snout, and a tail that looks like a crescent moon. In its morphology, it has a pair of dorsal and pectoral fins, which help it to move with agility. In addition, it has strong muscles and sharp teeth, as well as other traits and abilities that make it the king of the oceans. Let’s see what they are in the following paragraphs!

1. The white shark is one of the largest marine predators

To begin this list of interesting facts about the white shark, we’ll mention its proportions, as it presents an amazing size. It can reach up to 20 feet in length and some 6500 pounds in weight.

At the same time, you’ll be surprised to know that the female is the largest, as the male is only about 13 feet long. This is detailed by the Zoology Museum of the University of Michigan, through the Animal Diversity Web portal.

2. It’s the only member of its genus

Regarding the taxonomy of the great white shark, we know that it belongs to the class Elasmobranchii, order Lamniformes, family Lamnidae, and genus Carcharodon. It’s the only member of that genus. However, its family – the Lamnidae – is represented by 4 other species, which are the following:

  • The mako or shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
  • The Cornish porbeagle (Lamamna nasus)
  • The Pacific porbeagle shark (Lamna ditropis)
  • The longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus)
Of all lamnids, the great white shark is the best known and the largest.

3. Its body isn’t entirely white

It’s common to observe that the names of animals refer to some of their characteristics. However, in this case, this shark isn’t entirely white, but this coloration can be observed on its belly.

However, the appearance of the dorsal surface of its body is of various shades of gray, ranging from light to dark. Some specimens exhibit an oval-shaped black spot on the pectoral fins.

4. It has up to 300 teeth in its mouth

Tiburón blanco muestra sus dientes.
The sharp teeth of the white shark are arranged in several rows and can be renewed in about 24 hours. Credit: RamonCarretero/iStockphoto.

Although it may not seem credible, the truth is that these sharks can have up to 300 teeth in their mouths, which allows them to tear and shred their prey without difficulty. These teeth have the following characteristics:

  • Sharp
  • Saw shaped
  • Triangular
  • Arranged in several rows
White shark teeth and jaws are valuable commodities in the trade.

5. It’s equipped with highly developed senses

Like any predatory machine, it has highly developed senses that allow it to hunt its prey. One of the most efficient is the sense of smell, with which it can detect a drop of blood in 100 liters of water.

It can also perceive the electromagnetic fields of animals (such as those produced by the heartbeat or the functioning of the gills). In this way, it detects minute electrical charges, as low as 0.005 microvolts.

6. It has a variable diet

Another interesting fact about the great white shark Carcharodon carcharias is its diet. Being a large predator, it can feed on a wide variety of prey:

  • Seals
  • Dolphins
  • Porpoises
  • Seabirds
  • Sea lions
  • Sea turtles
  • Some crustaceans
  • Marine mammals
  • Squids and octopuses
  • Fish (bony and cartilaginous)
They may also eat carrion. Juveniles consume smaller prey, while adults prefer marine mammals.

A study published in the journal Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries mentions among the most common prey the following marine animals:

  • Tuna (Thunnus spp.)
  • Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
  • Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
  • Cetaceans (Tursiops truncatus and Stenella coeruleoalba)

7. It’s an aggressive animal

Although some data on the biology of these lamnids are unknown, it’s thought that there’s aggression between males during the reproductive period. It’s also believed that during copulation, male individuals bite females.

This is based on the markings on their bodies. However, it should be mentioned that mating hasn’t yet been observed.

8. The pups develop inside the mother

The great white shark has a slow reproductive cycle, similar to other members of its family, in which the female retains the fertilized eggs inside her body, where they develop.

The offspring in utero feed on unfertilized eggs (oophagy).

This means that its reproduction is aplacental viviparous or histotrophic (as some experts also call it). In addition, a study in the journal Biology Open details that the hatchlings practice histotrophic feeding in the early stages of development, before employing oophagy. This means that they consume a nutritious fluid that’s rich in lipids and is secreted by the mother.

The gestation period is long, lasting up to more than a year. After this period, up to 10 or more pups are born, which measure about four feet in length and are completely independent.

The white shark lives around 40 years

Another interesting fact about the great white shark is its longevity, as it’s an animal that can live for several years, that is, up to 30 or 40.

It has a slow growth rate and a late sexual maturity, which is exhibited when the male is almost a decade old and measures about 13 feet in length. Females, on the other hand, reach this stage from 12 to 17 years of age, when they measure between 15 to 16 feet in length.

10. It can propel its body out of the water

A great white shark propelling itself out of the water to catch its prey.
The Carcharodon carcharias is able to make large jumps out of the water to catch its prey. Credit: USO/iStockphoto.

This is a lamnid with another interesting aspect to its behavior. In addition to its agile swimming, it can perform certain jumps out of the water. It does this during chases while trying to attack its prey from below.

11. The great white shark is responsible for attacks on humans

This shark is responsible for several attacks on humans. However, it’s thought that these attacks aren’t intentional, but a product of its curious nature or because it confuses people with some of its prey.

There are several records of attacks on people and boats. Usually, this fish executes a single bite and then withdraws, but this aggression may be enough to compromise the victim’s life, depending on the severity of the wound.

The Encyclopedia Britannica states that, in the United States, 7% of attacks are fatal. In other locations, these figures may be higher, as is the case in South Africa, where 20% of attacks are estimated to be fatal, or Australia, which has up to 60%.

12. It’s a species that’s vulnerable to extinction

Despite being a large predator, it’s an endangered animal. Since 1996, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified it as “vulnerable” in its red list.

Its population is in a decreasing state. This is due to hunting and incidental capture of this species by means of different fishing methods.

There’s still a lack of knowledge about the biology of the great white shark

As we’ve seen, the great white shark is a specimen equipped with size, muscles, 300 sharp teeth, and hunting skills that make it a great predator of the oceans.

It also comes to attack humans, albeit accidentally. However, much remains to be discovered about its biology, especially its reproductive behavior, courtship (if any), mating, and other aspects of its life.

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