great white sharks great white sharks great white sharks
great white sharks great white sharksgreat white sharksgreat white sharks great white sharks
(Carcharodon carcharias)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Lamniformes
Family: Lamnidae
Genus: Carcharodon

The white shark is a solitary predator that can grow to over 20' in length, but averages 12-16 feet and weighs about 4000 pounds. Larger great whites have been recorded up to 23' and other evidence shows they could grow as large as 26' in some parts of the world. As with most sharks, females are larger than males. Shark pups are around five feet long at birth.

Great White SharkThe heavy body is shaped like a torpedo. Most of the shark is gray with a white underbelly. When hunting, the great white usually strikes from below. Its grayish top coloration blends in with the dark water, allowing it to approach the prey undetected. This shark has five gill slits, a crescent-shaped tail, no fin spines, an anal fin, a dorsal fin and two pectoral fins. The dorsal fin is the one that breaks the surface of the water.

For as large and heavy as this shark is, the great white shark is a streamlined swimmer, striking it's prey with a tremendous force.

Smile for the camera!

great white shark jaw @istockphotoThe great white shark has multiple rows of teeth. As the older teeth age and fall out, new teeth move in from behind. Like a conveyor belt, the teeth grow from the inner surface of the shark's jaw cartilage and are shed from the front row. great white shark tooth @istockphoto

The teeth of the great white shark are serrated and can be up to 3" long. It is common to see souvenir trinkets and tacky jewelry made from the tooth of the great white shark.

The shape and structure of the teeth is different in various shark species. This is due to variations in the animal's diet. For the great white shark the teeth are the perfect design to rip apart just about anything it decides to attack...accept the shark cage!

Smaller white sharks feed on bony fish, but as they get larger they will require a lot more calories to maintain their huge size. Adults feed on California sea lions, harbor seals, and occasionally dolphins, whale carcasses and even on the carcasses of other sharks.

Despite world-wide attention and negative publicity given to the white shark from media and movies, it is one of the most misunderstood sharks in the ocean. Unfortunately, much of the population believes they are man-eating, random killers lurking the oceans for its next victim. The opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in the wild will give you a whole new outlook on what the great white shark is all about.

Photos © Bonnie Pelnar

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