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Great White

White Pointer, White Death

Carcharodon carcharias

Lamnidae: Mackerel Sharks

Great White Shark
Photo Courtesy of: Carl Roessler

By whatever name you call this magnificent creature the fact still remains that it is the most feared of the sharks. Almost anyone you ask will agree. It is widely believed that this is a man eating monster which seeks out human prey.

Most shark attack victims report that it was a Great White which attacked them. Many never actually see the shark, they only know that it "was" a shark and so it "must be" a Great White. The sad fact is that Great Whites are only responsible for a few shark
attacks yearly. They tend to keep in cooler waters although they do sometimes enter the tropics.

Despite the belief they seek out man, the truth is that mans seeks them out. People due
to fear or some misguided trophy hunting search to find and kill the Great White. Far more Great Whites die yearly then are humans mistaken for prey. Great Whites prefer a high fat diet of Sea Lions and Seals. This is why marine biologists believe that surfers are occasionally attacked. Looking towards the surface, from below (the shark's point of view) a surfer laying on his board, feet dangling, is quite similar to the shape of a Sea Lion.
Many shark attacks are simply a case of mistaken identity on the part of the shark. Hence the "bite & spit." Realizing after the first strike that it is not the intended Seal Lion or Seal the shark commonly does not continue the attack.

THE ATTACK: It begins with wide circles around the intended prey, then the circle
tightens until the explosion upwards from below. A Great White has a 4,200 pounds per square inch bite! In human attacks, the primary strike is the only contact. Their estimated burst speed is 15 miles per hour. In attacks on seals the Great White will grab and hold it's prey until it bleeds to death. This is known as "exsanguination" or "blood deprivation." An attack on a sea lion the shark repeatedly rams it's prey and grabs it again and again until
it too suffers from exsanguination. Once the prey stops bleeding, the shark feeds.

Scientists believe that Great Whites feed only twice a week, eating large amounts at
those feedings. (They don't eat as much as we like to believe!) The largest part of the Great White's brain is devoted to smell. Great Whites constantly check the water for chemical changes which alert them that their prey is near. Great Whites are found to be larger in the Red Triangle, possibly due to the fact they are not fished as much there.

Click to learn more about the Red Triangle.

Interesting fact... Female Great Whites give birth to 7-9 live pups per litter and are only thought to produce 4-6 litters in a lifetime. They do not sexually mature until they are 10-12 years old. This is one of the reasons why countries such as the U.S. and Australia have named the Great White a "Protected Species."

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