Great whites are the largest predatory fish on Earth and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms). They have slate-gray upper bodies to blend in with the rocky coastal sea floor, but get their name from their universally white underbellies.
They are streamlined, torpedo-shaped swimmers with powerful tails that can propel them through the water at speeds of up to 15 miles (24 kilometers) per hour. They can even leave the water completely, breaching like whales when attacking prey from underneath. Highly adapted predators, their mouths are lined with up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth arranged in several rows. They even have organs that can sense the tiny electromagnetic fields generated by animals.
Facts about the great white shark;
- Great white sharks can be found throughout the world’s oceans, mostly in cool waters close to the coast.
- These super swimmers are the largest predatory fish (fish that eat other fish or animals) on our planet. On average, they grow to around 4.6m long, but some great whites have been measured at 6m – that’s half the length of a bus!
- Great white sharks are grey with a white underbelly, from where they get their name. They have a streamlined shape and powerful tails that propel them through the water at over 60km per hour!
- Any creature unlucky enough to find itself in the gob of a great white is in for a nasty shock! Because this marine beast’s mouth is equipped with a set of 300 sharp, triangular teeth arranged in up to seven rows. Yikes! Let’s take a closer look, if you dare…
- Whilst many think of these beasts as fearsome man-eaters, humans aren’t, in fact, on the great white’s menu. Phew! There are around 5-10 attacks a year, but researchers believe that, rather than preying on humans to eat them, the sharks are instead taking a ‘sample bite’ out of curiosity, before swimming off.
- So what do they eat? Well, when they’re young, they feed on small prey, such as fish and rays. But when they’re older and bigger, they generally feast on sea mammals such as sea lions, seals and small whales.
- Great white sharks have such a strong sense of smell that they can detect a colony of seals two miles away. And if there was only one drop of blood in 100 litres of water, a great white would smell it!
- These cunning creatures like to take their prey by surprise. They usually position themselves underneath their unsuspecting victims before swimming up! They often burst out of the water in a leap (called a breach) before falling back in with their meal in their mouths.
- When a great white gives birth, she usually has two to ten youngsters, called ‘pups’. But she shows no care for her offspring – in fact, she may even try to eat them! Taking care of themselves, the newborn pups will immediately swim off into the ocean.
- Great white sharks are at the top of the food chain and aren’t likely to be killed by other sea creatures. Sadly, however, they are under serious threat by human activity. Illegal hunting of these beautiful beasts, and overfishing, have meant that today great white sharks are an endangered species.