Great White Sharks

Which of the following animals is a fish?

And the answer: Great white shark.

Photo credit: Terry Goss, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Found in cool coastal waters around the world, great white sharks are the largest predatory fish on the planet. Because they're cold-blooded, have gills, and don't feed their young, they're classified as fish.

Thanks to film portrayals in Jaws (1975), The Reef (2010), The Shallows (2016) and a plethora of others, this top ocean predator has earned a fearsome image. And, to be fair, not without some validity: great white sharks hunt for their meals, can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, and can leap out of the water with deadly accuracy. However, recent advances in the study of great whites has revealed that these predators are less malicious than they’ve been portrayed in film and media. In fact, they might just be big, curious fish with a few sets of sharp teeth. Here are some interesting facts about the top predators of the sea:

  1. Great whites are warm-blooded, unlike most other sharks who are cold-blooded. This lets the great white shark raise their internal temperature to the temperature of the water, which helps them have the energy to burst forward while hunting.
  2. Great whites can grow up to 20 feet long, and weigh up to 2.5 tons. That’s nearly twice the weight and length of the average car.
  3. Carcharodon carcharias, the scientific name for great whites, means “ragged-toothed”. It comes from the Greek word “carcharos” for ragged, and “odon” for tooth.
  4. Most great white attacks occur out of curiosity and mistaken identity. As naturally curious creatures, great whites will often take a “sample bite” of prey to see what that curious thing might be (their eyesight is quite poor). In fact, the majority of great white attacks occur because the shark perceives a nearby swimmer to be a seal!
  5. Great whites have incredible senses of smell. They can detect a drop of blood in 25 gallons of water!  

Learn more about these incredible apex predators here.

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