Great White Sharks – Did You Know?

In my new Did You Know blog series, learn 10 fun facts about one animal in 5 minutes. In the series, I’ll tell you stuff you didn’t already know (hopefully). Let me know how many surprised you!

Today I’m focusing on one deadly predator: the great white shark.

Did You Know that great white sharks…

1. …Have serrated teeth. When feeding, they shake their head from side to side so the teeth can tear off large hunks of flesh.

2. …Are known to attack and kill people. This may not come as much of a surprise, given Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel “Jaws” and the popular gory 1975 film adaptation by Steven Spielberg. Most shark attacks on humans appear to come from great whites. But despite its deadly reputation, shark researchers say out of all the prey great whites attack they rarely attack and kill humans.

3. …Have an extra sense organ. Ampullae of Lorenzini in sharks’ skin allow them to detect the electromagnetic field emitted by the movement of living animals. This has led to the development of electric-emitting deterrents to prevent attacks on people.

The great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). Wikipedia Commons.

4. …Can change their core body temperature. Cooler blood in the arteries is heated up by warmer blood in the veins to heat core temperature, helping them to chase agile and fast prey like sea lions. Core temperature can also be reduced to conserve energy.

5. …Rely on their liver for long-distance migrations. Fat and oil stores in their livers help provide energy during long migrations through nutrient-poor waters.

6. …Are pretty huge. Females can reach a length of 16 feet (almost 5 metres). That’s two and a half Michael Jordans laid end-to-end. Some 20 ft monsters have been recorded.


Size comparison between a human and a typical great white. Wikipedia Commons.

7. …Have a massive bite force of 669 pounds per square inch (18,000 newtons) revealed by computer models. But, relative to other animals like polar bears, snapping turtles, and killer whales, this is actually rather wimpy. Perhaps this is because they can rely on their serrated teeth as predatory weapons, rather than just on the power of their jaws.

8. …Are one of few sharks known to use ‘spy-hopping’. This involves poking their head above the sea surface to look at other objects in the water, such as prey.

9. …Are highly opportunistic ambush predators likened to human serial killers. When hunting seals, great whites breach the water surface due to the momentum of their high speed pursuit (see the breathtaking slow-motion video of this happening in BBC Planet Earth).

10. …Can be killed and eaten by killer whales (orcas). When the two competing species meet, orcas have been known to suffocate sharks by pinning them upside-down to then eat their liver.

Feel free to make suggestions about other animals you want to see featured in the series!


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