Great White Sharks

Essay by xkathryn09 March 2007

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Although the great white shark species is responsible for an average of 2-3 non-fatal attacks on swimmers, surfers, and divers each year, its role as a menace is exaggerated, being the most feared species of all sharks.

Young great white sharks eat fish, rays, and other sharks. Adults eat larger prey, including pinnipeds, small toothed whales, otters, and sea turtles. They also eat carrion. The sharks are found near shore along most of the temperate coastlines around the world. They have been observed along the coastlines of California to Alaska, the east coast of the USA and most of the Gulf coast, Hawaii, most of South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Mediterranean Sea, West Africa to Scandinavia, Japan, and the eastern coastline of China and southern Russia.

The great white shark is a streamlined swimmer and a ferocious predator with 3,000 teeth at any one time. This much-feared fish has a torpedo-shaped body, a pointed snout, a crescent-shaped tail, 5 gill slits, no fin spines, an anal fin, and 3 main fins: the dorsal fin, and 2 pectoral fins.

Only the underbelly of the great white shark is actually white; its top surface is gray to blue gray. Great whites average 12-16 feet long. The biggest great white shark on record was 23 feet long, weighing about 7,000 pounds.

Great white sharks reproduce via aplacental viviparity; they give birth to 2-14 fully-formed pups that are up to 5 feet long. There is no placenta to nourish the babies - they must fend for themselves, even before birth. They swim away from the mother immediately after birth, there is no maternal care-giving.

Great whites are decreasing in numbers and are rare due to years of being hunted by man. They are a protected species along the coasts of California, USA, Australia, and South Africa.