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Great White Shark Facts

Photo: Great white shark breaching the surface

Photo: Great white shark breaching the surface (View larger version)

Photo by iStockPhoto

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  • There are 350 species of sharks, comprising a diverse group ranging from the huge plankton-feeding whale and basking sharks to tiny deep water sharks that are bioluminescent.

  • The great white shark ancestor was possibly Megalodon – weighing up to 50 tons (the same as ten fully grown elephants). Megalodon lived 20 million years ago and became extinct 2 million years ago.

  • The scientific name of the great white shark is Carcharadon carcharias which means “ragged tooth.”

  • Great white sharks reach their highest concentration in temperate waters, especially in the vicinity of seal breeding colonies off the coasts of South Africa, Australia and California.

  • Great white sharks have 26 broad triangular serrated teeth in each row of the upper jaw and 24 more-pointed teeth in each row of lower jaw. The upper jaw teeth are designed to cut and saw while the lower jaw teeth are designed to impale. Their teeth fall out regularly and are replaced automatically throughout the shark’s life.

  • Great white sharks have exceptional eyesight. The rod-to-cone ratio in the retina is roughly the same as in human beings, providing acute, bright-light, color vision. Additionally, they have a reflective layer behind the eye that greatly enhances their sensitivity to low light levels.

  • Great white sharks swim constantly with their mouth slightly open to allow water to pass in and out through their gills.

  • Shark prey includes seals, other sharks and rays, bony fish, squid, dolphins and whales.

  • The main threats to great white sharks include long-lining (accidental as by-catch or deliberate), the shark fin soup industry, persecution, sports fishing, tourism, the growth of unregulated fisheries and the largely unrestricted trade in shark products.

  • The jaws and teeth are highly valued as trophies - a large set of jaws may be worth up to $10,000.

  • The skin of some species of shark may be eaten (nikigori in Japan). More commonly, it is used as sandpaper (shagreen), or as a striking surface for matches, a grip for sword hilts, or for leather in furniture, bookbinding and shoes.

  • In recent times, great white sharks numbers have fallen by as much as 80% in some places.

  • Shark liver oils have been used in farming and textile production, as well as in the cosmetics, lamp oil, and pharmaceutical industries.

  • Squalene (which provides buoyancy for the shark) is used as a fine lubricant and as a bactericidal moisturizer.

  • Protection of great white sharks in international waters is strengthened if female and possibly pregnant sharks are travelling the oceans.
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