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The Great White Shark


The Great White Shark - Carcharodon carcharias

The great white shark belongs to the Lamnidae (Mackerel sharks) family and Carcharodon (White sharks) genus. The Latin name of the species is Carcharodon carcharias, but people often call it differently. White death, man-eater, white shark - are the most common epithets.

The habitat of the great white shark - is the coastal waters of almost all the world oceans. The only exception is the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Despite the name, the only white part of the shark is the lower half of the body, while the upper half is dark. The line that is separating two halves is uneven and slurred.

The white shark is considered to be the largest carnivorous fish that have survived down to the present day. It often reaches 23 feet in length and can weight more than 3 tons. Of course, whale and basking sharks can be even larger, but since they eat plankton - they are not predators.

Such a huge predator acquired the darkest reputation very soon. Especially since the cases of white shark attacks on divers, swimmers or surfers have been repeatedly documented. To add, the possibility of survival after a large shark attack is very low. You are more likely to survive under the truck wheels, rather than in carcharodon jaws.

Mighty jaws with large and sharp teeth, strong and fast body and great tenacity in the prey pursuit make a meeting with a hungry white shark extremely dangerous.

White shark is currently the only member of the carcharodon genus, which is under a threat of extinction. According to scientists, the white sharks population includes about 3,500 individuals and continues to shrink.

For the first time the great white shark has been classified by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 as Squalus carcharias. But, in 1833, she was given a generic name - carcharodon, which is still used. The name comes from the Greek words: "karcharos", which means "sharp" and "odous", which means "tooth". The final version of the name that appeared in 1873 - carcharodon carcharias - was the result of combining of two names, one that was given by Linnaeus and the generic name given by Smith.

The Mackerel Shark family (Lamnidae), to which carcharodon belongs, consists of four species: Atlantic porbeagle (Lamna nasus), Pacific salmon shark (Lamna ditropis), longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus) and mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus).

Because of the large size and similar teeth structure there was a popular theory of the relationship between the modern carcharodon and the giant extinct megalodon. By the way, the full scientific name of Megalodon is Carcharodon Megalodon - a direct consequence of this hypothesis.

The results of recent researches show that great white shark is closer to mako shark, and the most likely ancestor of carcharodon is Isurus hastalis. Megalodon and white shark are just distant relatives, since they both belong to the Lamnidae family. Megalodons are related to Carcharocles genus, which includes the extinct Otodus obliquus.

The habitat of the great white shark

The great white shark inhabits in coastal seas of the continental shelf of tropical and temperate latitudes. They prefer water which temperature is between 12 and 24 degrees. They almost never appear in colder waters.

White sharks cannot be found in less salted seas as well. In particular, they do not come to the Black Sea, where the water is not salty enough. It would be difficult for the predator to find a food there, as well.

You can meet a great white shark in almost any coastal waters and in warm and temperate seas. In the southern hemisphere they cannot be found to the south from South Africa coast and Australian southern coast. It is believed that the best place to see the great white shark is the area off the California coast, near the Mexican island of Isla Guadalupe in the Pacific Ocean. There are some white sharks in the Mediterranean as well. Particularly in central part of Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. White shark is a protected species off the New Zealand's coast.

It is worth noting that the great white sharks often form small flocks. For example, there is a large population in the Dyer Island waters, that is off the coast of South Africa. Many scientific researches, related to that kind of sharks, are held there.

It is not rare to meet a white shark near the Caribbean Sea islands and the Gulf of Mexico islands. There are a number of them near Madagascar, Seychelles, off the Kenyan coast and along the Australian coast.

White sharks mostly appear in those waters, where a lot of marine mammals such as sea lions, seals or whales, sharks and other species of large fish can be found.

Carcharodon is considered to be the king of the oceans, a super predator that stays on the top of the food chain. Probably the only serious opponent for the white shark is a large whale, except man of course.

Great white sharks can dive on a really significant depth, up to 1300 meters (4200 feet). Carcharodons do not spend their entire lives at one coast. They migrate for thousands of kilometers. For example, according to recent researches, white sharks move from California shores to Hawaii, to the place called "White Shark Cafe". They spend up to 100 days a year there. Moreover scientists still cannot understand the reason why do white sharks spend so much time in that "cafe". After all, there is not enough food for them in these waters.

It should be noted that carcharodons are moving slowly and dive to a depth of one kilometer during their migration. After sharks get to the coastal waters, their diving depth decreases to 300 meters (1000 feet).

Tracking of the white shark, tagged off the South Africa coast, revealed some interesting facts. Every year this shark was swimming to the southern coast of Australia and back. The total length of migration route was about 20 thousand kilometers (12 thousand miles). It was taking less than 9 months for the shark.

Thus, the white shark is not a coastal predator, as scientists believed. Generally speaking, the way of life of white sharks and their habits are quite poorly studied. In particular, the sharks migration objectives and reasons are still unclear. Perhaps it is related to mating games of white sharks or to hunt seasonality. There are several theories, though no confirmed ones.

Recently, it became clear to scientists that white sharks from different populations do not live in isolation, but regularly contact each other during migration.

The internal structure and appearance of white sharks

Like most of shark's bodies the body of a great white shark resembles a spindle. Large head, in the form of a cone, eyes, a pair of nostrils and a mouth on it. To increase the flow rate of water going to the nostrils, they are surrounded by small grooves, thanks to what carcharodon has a good sense of smell.

Huge mouth is equipped with serrated triangular teeth that shark uses to cut off large pieces of meat easily. The jaw pressure of the big white shark can reach 18,000 Newtons. It should be noted that this result was obtained by a computer simulation.

The teeth are arranged in several rows: white shark usually has 5. The total number of teeth - about 280-300. The teeth are getting regularly changed. It takes about 3 months for a young white shark to completely change the first row of its teeth. Process goes slower for adult sharks - about 8 months.

Five gill slits are located behind the white shark's head.

Carcharodon has a protective coloration that is typical for fish that lives in the water. Shark has an off-white belly and a dark gray back, with impurities of green, blue or brown. Such coloration makes shark barely noticeable and allows it get close to its prey.

The largest fins are - two pectoral fins and a front dorsal fin. Second dorsal, pelvic and anal fins are much smaller and are not so meaty. The tail fin is large, its upper and lower blades are the same size, what is typical for this sharks family.

Well-developed circulatory system is an interesting feature of white sharks. Because of it carcharodon is able to warm up the muscles very quick and to demonstrate a high speed and mobility.

Sharks have no swim bladder, and the white shark is not an exception. As a result, it has negative buoyancy and has to constantly swim in order not to sink. Considering that sharks live on Earth for millions of years, the lack of a swim bladder causes no problems to them.

Size of the great white shark

Size of the great white shark is a highly debated topic. An ordinary adult white shark is about 4-5,3m (13-16 feet) big and weighs up to a ton. Females are usually a little bit larger than males.

As for the maximum size of the shark it is common to indicate 8 meters (26 feet) and a weight of 3.5 tons. However, some researchers believe that carcharodon can reach more significant size - up to 10-12 meters (33-39 feet).

For a long time the largest great white sharks considered to be: the fish caught in 70-ies of the XIX century on the Australian coast near Port Fairy, which had a length of 10.9 meters (36 feet), and another one, caught in 1930 by a hearing trap near the dam of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, which had a length of 11.3 meters (37 feet). This information was presented by both popular entertainment publications and scientific literature. The rest caught white sharks were not bigger than 6.5-7 meters (21-23 feet).

Nowadays the plausibility of the posts about caught sharks-champions is being questioned. First of all, there is a big difference between these sharks and ones that were seen by the scientists. Secondly, both of these sharks were not measured by scientists. The message about the shark from New Brunswick came from the fishermen who may have really seen a giant shark instead of white. They have a similar body shape, but belong to completely different species.

As for the shark from Port Fairy, the research of its jaw made by ??D.I. Reynolds in 1970, 100 years after the capture of the shark, made a lot of things clear. According to his calculations, the jaws from the Port Fairy could belong to a great white shark that was no longer than 6 meters (20 feet). Some excess of its size was probably caused by the desire to create a sensation.

The largest great white shark, which was reliably measured by scientists, had a length of 6.4 meters (21 feet). It was caught in 1945 off the Cuba coast. Researches and measurements were documented, but even in this case there were experts who argued that the Cuban white shark was actually a few feet shorter. That shark weighted 3270 kg (7200 lbs), but in spite of measurement accuracy, it was not documented, so that there is no proof.

The diet of the great white shark

Young white sharks eat relatively small sea fish, mammals and animals. While growing up, carcharodons expand their diet by including adult seals and sea lions, cephalopods, large fish and other marine feed. White sharks are often hunting and eating other smaller sharks. Sometimes white sharks gnaw dead whale carcasses.

Great white shark coloring works great as a camouflage, helping to sneak up to a prey at a distance of an effective attack. Due to high body temperature, carcharodon can reach high speed. In addition, a good blood supply of the brain grants the great white shark a quite high "intelligence".

Thanks to that, the set of tactics they use during the hunt is very diverse and hunting methods are quite smart. Combined with an impressive physical data, it ensures a hunting success for the white shark, no matter what kind of prey it is chasing.

White sharks need a fat rich food to maintain energy balance at the proper level. A lot of calories are spent to warm up the muscle tissue. As a result, carcharodons love to eat marine mammals, because of their fatty meat. Fatty mammals include seals, sea lions, dolphins and even small whales.

When hunting a seal white shark can just move in the water like it is not noticing the mammal. Right under the seal the shark abruptly changes its direction and move straight up, accelerating up to 40 km/h (25 mi/h) and above. It happens often that white shark completely jumps out of the water while using this attack method.

Sometimes shark does not kill the seal during the attack, but cause serious wounds with its jaws by striking it with a head or grabbing and throwing it. Then it quietly swims up to a wounded or stunned prey and start to eat.

Considering the love of white sharks to marine mammals, it becomes clear why sharks attack divers or surfers sometimes. At a distance, a man, especially in flippers and a diving suit, look like a seal. Shark mistakes him for its favorite prey and attack. It realizes it was wrong only when grabbing a skinny and a rubber smelling man. By the way, that explains why sometimes a shark bites a man, and does not devour it but swims away instead. White shark may eat unusual and less nutritious food only because of starvation.

Great white sharks reproduction

It is believed that no one still have seen the mating process of great white sharks. As well as the birth of the baby. Like almost all sharks, carcharodons are ovoviviparous.

Pregnancy lasts about 11 months, after what the female gives birth to one or two cubs. Intrauterine cannibalism is quite typical for great white sharks. The strongest and most physically developed babies eat weaker sisters and brothers before they get born. Only the strongest and healthiest individuals are able to come into the world.

Small sharks can start to hunt on their own right after the birth. They have a well-developed body and teeth, though they are much smaller than adult sharks.

White sharks grow slowly and reach their sexual maturity only at age of 12-15. Low fertility and prolonged puberty are some of the reasons for population reduction. While anthropogenic factor is still the main cause.

Great white sharks population in the Mediterranean Sea

The largest shark that lives nowadays is Carcharodon carcharias or great white shark. It is the only species of the Carcharodon genus that has survived down to the present day and earned the "white death" nickname. There are almost no worthy opponents for a white shark at sea, except for large whale that is a grave threat for it.

White sharks live mostly in the coastal waters of the continental shelf, but some populations prefer Mediterranean Sea.

It is believed that Mediterranean Sea is the safest place for people to swim in, but how is it possible if there are so many large predators living there? Let's try to find this out.

Population of white sharks in the Mediterranean Sea was currently declined for almost three times. Despite the fact that some states specifically prohibit trapping and killing these predators, the unregulated white sharks fishing continues. The reason is an extremely high cost of trophies, shark jaws and teeth. You can sell shark fins, its liver and fat, which are used to prepare delicacies, at a good price.

Mediterranean carcharodons are on the verge of extinction. Their complete disappearance may cause a local ecological disaster. Fortunately, nowadays, there is an increase of the migration of white sharks from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Thus the population decline is getting compensated at least for a little bit.

What are the chances for vacationers to be attacked by a white shark, while bathing at Mediterranean beaches? It turns out that in terms of shark's eating habits, man is too bony and sinewy, while sharks love fat food. They would prefer tuna or seal instead of man.

Therefore, most of the shark's attacks in the Mediterranean Sea had been provoked by people themselves. Fishermen are often getting attacked, while trying to catch a big fish. Same for divers, who imprudently approach to the predator.

It is common for the Mediterranean shark to attack and seize the human with its teeth, and then suddenly to let him go and swim away. In many other regions, this attack can end lethal for a man, because the shark will eat it, despite its unpleasant taste.

Probably one of the reasons for such behavior is the plenty of forage for carcharodon in the Mediterranean. There are a lot of fish species and more than 45 other shark species in local waters. They all can become a food for the great white shark. That's why carcharodon refuses to eat the nasty-tasting and not too nutritious Homo sapiens.

The white shark becomes truly dangerous to humans only when its food supply is getting exhausted. It is worth noting that there has been an increase of the number of the man and carcharodon contacts along the coast during the last years, whereas before these sharks have been rarely approaching the shore.

Such contacts do not always end with an aggression, but in any case, when great white sharks approach for more than 100 meters to the coast, the beaches are getting closed. It is funny that sometimes quite harmless dolphins get mistaken for predators.

Fear of the white shark is more based on movies and media information rather than on actual cases. Isolated incidents are getting transformed into something enormous.

Of course, the white shark is a large and dangerous predator and you shouldn't approach it in any case, or even more so, to touch its fins. Oddly enough, there are still too self-confident divers who violate this simple rule. The result of such a reckless action can be very disappointing.

For example, when a known Italian director died in the teeth of a great white shark, almost no one paid an attention to the fact that he have decided to participate in sport fishing and was actually trying to catch the carcharodon. He even caught a great white shark, but fell into the sea, where he was bitten in half by the enraged trophy.

Although the Mediterranean is no longer an active fishing zone, white sharks are getting permanently exterminated in this area. Not for their meat, but for the delicacies and souvenirs for tourists. They cook a fin soup that can cost up to 100 dollars in some restaurants. They make souvenirs from bones and teeth.

Sometimes they catch a shark, cut off its fins and let it go then. It is obvious that such a cripple won't be able to live for a long time. Most likely, it will be eaten by other large sharks.

There are not a lot of white sharks in the Mediterranean, and they are much less aggressive than other populations of this species. Carcharodon plays an important role in the marine ecosystem. And experience shows that there are no unnecessary components in the ecosystem.

In some regions, white sharks are protected by law, particularly in the Australian exclusive economic zone in the waters of South Africa, in Israel, Malta, Namibia, and in the coastal zone of Florida and California. But it does not stop those who want to earn good money.

The complete extermination of the Mediterranean white sharks will inevitably lead to a serious disruption of the ecosystem balance. And the only reason why this can happen is a human greed and senseless cruelty.

Unfortunately, this is not the only species under the threat of extinction, which man is causing. Black pages of the Red Book that are full of extinct species are the evidence.

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