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Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

All images and text on this page are copyright protected: © 2010 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Lamniformes
Family: Lamnidae
Genus: Carcharodon
Species: carcharias
Taxonomic name: Carcharodon carcharias

The most notorious of all sharks is the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias). Its colour is light to dark grey on the back, fading to pale grey on the sides, sometimes with a bronzy sheen in certain light. The belly is white and the underside of the large pectoral fins may be dusky at the tips and/or have a dark spot near the body. This shark's conical snout is usually heavily scarred from the defences of their prey and the large eyes are pure black. The mouth remains partially open with the bottom teeth always visible. Very broad caudal keels sit before an almost symmetrical lunate tail. (see words to know)For such a notorious character, it is perhaps surprising that no serious studies of this shark's natural history have been undertaken until recently. It was not until 1985 that the first pregnant female was reliably recorded. She had seven near-term embryos, each about one metre long and weighing 13 kg. Studies of their feeding habits show that only the larger Great White Sharks regularly prey on marine mammals, such as seals and dolphins, their main diet consisting of fish, particularly tuna, and smaller sharks.

Great White sharks are now protected in many countries, including some States in Australia. Their low birth rate has not kept up with the numbers being caught by sport and commercial fishing vessels. Most Great White Sharks are killed accidentally in nets set for other species.

The maximum size for a Great White Shark is a subject of great controversy, with exaggeration being the yardstick. Despite stories of mythical Great Whites 10 m long, the largest specimen reliably measured to date has been 6.4 m long.

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