5 Things You May Not Know About Great White Sharks
The great white shark is one of the most awe-inspiring, fear-inducing, and misunderstood animals in the ocean. Made infamous by the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie Jaws, great white sharks are often depicted as ferocious animals who like to attack humans. In reality, they’re far less of a threat to humans than humans are to them, with a five-year global average of just 72 attacks. This figure is tiny when we consider that 100,000 people die from snake bites every year.
The great white shark is a misunderstood and fascinating creature, so let’s dive into some fun facts about the king of the sea!
1. The great white shark is the world’s largest predatory fish,
measuring an average of 15-16 feet long for females and 11-13 feet for males. The largest shark on record is said to have been 23 ft long and weighed 5,500 pounds, but the average great white shark weighs between 1,100 and 2,300 pounds.
The reputation Jaws gives them for their size isn’t quite fair (Jaws was an estimated 36 feet), but their ancient ancestor the Megalodon (which is believed to have gone extinct over 3.5 million years ago) looked almost identical and was an estimated 47-67 feet long!
2. Despite what popular culture may say about them, great white sharks are warm-blooded.
This means they can keep their body temperature warmer than the water they’re swimming in, which is not something most other sharks can do, allowing them to exist in a wider range of water temperatures.
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3. They can smell blood from over 3 miles away.
While they very rarely attack humans, they’re well-built for hunting other animals like fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and turtles. They have an impressive sense of smell and can detect blood from over 3 miles away. They also have five rows of around 300 triangular, serrated teeth and can lose and replace their teeth and can grow up to 20,000 in a lifetime. Even the color and shape of their bodies are adapted to hunting and their torpedo-shaped bodies enable them to swim as fast as 35mph. They’re camouflaged, with a gray top and white belly which blends in with the sun from above if you see them from below.
4. Their eyes aren’t actually black.
The famous quote, “Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes,” from Jaws, isn’t actually true. As if their noses, teeth, and bodies weren’t well-equipped enough for hunting, their eyes are also designed to help them hunt and behind the seemingly black outer layer is an eye rimmed with blue. Sharks have a reflective layer of shiny cells behind the retina that improves vision in low light conditions. Their eyes are also positioned on either side of their head, unlike most other predators, allowing them to see in almost all directions.
5. Poison runs through their veins - literally.
Great white sharks don’t have much to worry about, besides other great whites and orcas. However, if anything made the brave decision to bite into a living shark, it would probably regret it. Great white sharks have so much arsenic and mercury in their blood that the same quantity would kill almost any other animal on the planet!
These warm-blooded predatory fish are well-known for their hunting abilities, but it’s not humans they’re after. In fact, a great white shark would sooner eat a smaller shark than a human, and would much prefer to feast on fish and other marine mammals. The only animal that great white sharks fear is the orca or killer whale, which is the true apex predator of the oceanic food chain.