Great white shark


The great white shark has no known natural predators other than, on very rare occasions, the killer whale. It is arguably the world's largest-known extant macropredatory fish, and is one of the primary predators of marine mammals, up to the size of large baleen whales. This shark is also known to prey upon a variety of other marine animals, including fish, and seabirds. It is the only known surviving species of its genus Carcharodon, and is responsible for more recorded human bite incidents than any other shark.
The great white is an epipelagic fish, observed mostly in the presence of rich game, such as fur seals (Arctocephalus ssp.), sea lions, cetaceans, other sharks, and large bony fish species. In the open ocean, it has been recorded at depths as great as 1,200 m (3,900 ft). These findings challenge the traditional notion that the great white is a coastal species.
According to J. E. Randall, the largest white shark reliably measured was a 6 m (20 ft) individual reported from Ledge Point, Western Australia in 1987. Another great white specimen of similar size has been verified by the Canadian Shark Research Center: A female caught by David McKendrick of Alberton, Prince Edward Island, in August 1988 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off Prince Edward Island. This female great white was 6.1 m (20 ft) long. However, there was a report considered reliable by some experts in the past, of a larger great white shark specimen from Cuba in 1945. This specimen was reportedly 6.4 m (21 ft) long and had a body mass estimated at 3,324 kg (7,328 lb). However, later studies also revealed that this particular specimen was actually around 4.9 m (16 ft) in length, a specimen in the average maximum size range.
Great white sharks, like all other sharks, have an extra sense given by the ampullae of Lorenzini which enables them to detect the electromagnetic field emitted by the movement of living animals. Great whites are so sensitive they can detect variations of half a billionth of a volt. At close range, this allows the shark to locate even immobile animals by detecting their heartbeat. Most fish have a less-developed but similar sense using their body's lateral line.
A 2007 study from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, used CT scans of a shark's skull and computer models to measure the shark's maximum bite force. The study reveals the forces and behaviours its skull is adapted to handle and resolves competing theories about its feeding behaviour. In 2008, a team of scientists led by Stephen Wroe conducted an experiment to determine the great white shark's jaw power and findings indicated that a specimen massing 3,324 kg (7,328 lb) could exert a bite force of 18,216 newtons (4,095 lbf).
Great white sharks were previously thought to reach sexual maturity at around 15 years of age, but are now believed to take far longer; male great white sharks reach sexual maturity at age 26, while females take 33 years to reach sexual maturity. Maximum life span was originally believed to be more than 30 years, but a study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution placed it at upwards of 70 years. Examinations of vertebral growth ring count gave a maximum male age of 73 years and a maximum female age of 40 years for the specimens studied. The shark's late sexual maturity, low reproductive rate, long gestation period of 11 months and slow growth make it vulnerable to pressures such as overfishing and environmental change.
More than any documented bite incident, Peter Benchley's best-selling novel Jaws and the subsequent 1975 film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg provided the great white shark with the image of being a "man-eater" in the public mind. While great white sharks have killed humans in at least 74 documented unprovoked bite incidents, they typically do not target them: for example, in the Mediterranean Sea there have been 31 confirmed bite incidents against humans in the last two centuries, most of which were non-fatal. Many of the incidents seemed to be "test-bites". Great white sharks also test-bite buoys, flotsam, and other unfamiliar objects, and they might grab a human or a surfboard to identify what it is.
Companies object to being blamed for shark bite incidents, pointing out that lightning tends to strike humans more often than sharks bite humans. Their position is that further research needs to be done before banning practices such as chumming, which may alter natural behaviour. One compromise is to only use chum in areas where whites actively patrol anyway, well away from human leisure areas. Also, responsible dive operators do not feed sharks. Only sharks that are willing to scavenge follow the chum trail and if they find no food at the end then the shark soon swims off and does not associate chum with a meal. It has been suggested that government licensing strategies may help enforce these responsible tourism.