Great White Shark Facts!

Great white shark by Elias Levy, (CC BY 2.0)

Great White Shark Facts — Q & A

Great white shark by Elias Levy, (CC BY 2.0)

The great white shark is one of the most popular sea creatures — known for its size (it can grow over half the size of a bus) and its ferocious appetite (which sometimes includes a human arm or leg!) It isn’t actually white — it’s bluish gray on top — but it is a great animal, with a nose that can detect blood from miles away, teeth that can break through bone and special organs that can detect electromagnetic fields in the water. Do you want to know some other great things about this most famous shark? Read on to learn the answers to the most popular great white shark questions.

Q: What Is the Largest Great White Shark on Record?

Bay of Cojimar. Image credit: Cryptus84, (CC BY-SA 2.5)

A: The “Cojimar Specimen”, a great white shark caught off the coast of Cuba, is widely considered to be the largest great white shark on record. It was 21 feet (6.4 meters) long and weighed over 7300 pounds (3311 kilograms)!

Normally, though, great white sharks grow 15 to 17 feet (4.6 to 5.2 meters) long and weigh around 5000 pounds (2268 kilograms). The females are larger than the males, because they need to be able to carry their babies.

The great white shark is not the largest shark, but it is the largest predatory shark in the world.

Q: What Do White Sharks Eat?

A: Great white sharks are meat eaters. The young ones like to eat fish, especially tuna, while adults prefer marine mammals like dolphins, small whales, sea lions, sea otters and seals, especially fur seals, as well as sea turtles and seabirds, like gulls and albatrosses. They also eat other sharks, even smaller ones of their own kind, and rays. The hunting technique of the great white changes according to its prey. It usually attacks from below, delivering a quick bite, and then drags its prey to the bottom, but it can also attack from the side or from above.

Great white sharks have a high hunting success rate, but they also often end up with injuries. Scars do not do much damage, but to prevent their eyes from getting scratched while they hunt, they roll them back in their sockets. They do not have eyelids, after all, and this is all they can to do to make sure they don’t get blinded.

Image credit: James Mostert, (CC BY 2.0)

Q: How Often Do Great White Sharks Eat?

A: That depends on the meal. If it’s a big meal, say an adult brown fur seal that weighs 500 pounds (227 kilograms), it can last them up to three months. If it’s a small meal, like a young albatross that weighs 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms), then it will only last the great white shark five to six days.

Q: What Are the Great White Shark’s Predators?

Jumping Killer whales
Killer whales.

A: You would think that a fish as big and as fierce as the great white shark would be at the top of the food chain, but no. Great white sharks are actually eaten by killer whales, which are bigger and hunt in groups called pods. Smaller great white sharks are also eaten by larger great white sharks, while the pups are eaten by other sharks.

Q: How Big Are the Great White Shark’s Teeth?

4cm tall Fossil great white shark tooth from Miocene (~20 million year old) sediments in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Image credit: Kevmin, CC BY-SA 3.0)

A: Each of a great white shark’s teeth is shaped like a triangle, with a sharp tip, and can grow up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long — almost as long as a crayon. Each tooth is covered with a special coating that prevents it from decaying. For this same reason, a shark tooth pendant can last for a long time, and is often worn for good luck and protection.

Q: How Many Teeth Does the Great White Shark Have?

Great white shark teeth. Image credit: Lukoi, (CC BY 2.0)

A: A great white shark can have up to 300 teeth at any given time, arranged in up to seven rows. Why does the great white shark have so many teeth? It’s because the teeth are not embedded in bone — great white sharks don’t have bones — and so they easily fall out.

Now, a great white shark can’t very well hunt without its teeth, so when a tooth falls out, the rest move forward and a new one grows in the back within a day. A great white shark can go through more than a thousand teeth in its lifetime. Lucky shark!

Q: What Is a Great White Shark’s Habitat?

Global range of great white shark highlighted in blue. Author: maplab, (CC BY 3.0)

A: The great white shark is found in cool waters all over the world, both near the coast and in the open ocean. It is especially abundant off the coasts of South Africa, Japan, Australia and California.

Q: How Are Great White Sharks Born?

A: Great white sharks are ovoviparous. This means that the females have eggs but they keep them inside their body until they are fully developed, instead of laying them like birds. The eggs hatch inside the female’s body and the young eat the shells of their eggs for nutrition. Then, when they are larger and ready to survive on their own, they are born as pups. A female great white shark can have as many as a dozen pups which she carries for up to 11 months. The pups are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long when they are born. They have to be big because they are not cared for by their parents in any way, and have to find food and avoid predators on their own.

Q: What Is the Latin Name for the Great White Shark?

Image credit: Elias Levy, (CC BY 2.0)

A: The Latin or scientific name for the great white shark is Carcharodon carcharias. It was originally called Squalus carcharias (squalus meaning “shark” in Latin), but in 1833, it was given the genus name Carcharodon, which comes from the Greek words karcharos and odous, which together mean “sharp tooth”. A fitting name, don’t you think?

Q: How Many Great White Sharks Are Left in the World?

Great White Shark by Terry Goss, GFDL.

A: No one knows for sure how many great white sharks remain in the world’s oceans. In spite of its popularity, little is actually known about its habits and it is rarely seen unless it attacks or is caught.

Q: Is the Great White Shark Endangered?

Image credit: Elias Levy, (CC BY 2.0)

A: The great white shark is currently classified as a Vulnerable species, which means that its population is decreasing and if it continues to decrease, then it will become Endangered. Great white sharks are threatened by fishing for their jaws, which are collected as trophies, and for their fins which are served as a delicacy. A set of great white shark fins is currently valued at over $1000 (€911).

Great white sharks are featured in the following books:
25 Top Predators in the World
25 Most Deadly Animals in the World
25 Most Awesome Sharks
Sharks for Early Readers

The YouTube video below contains a playlist of videos about great white sharks. The list of videos featured is underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Great White Shark by National Geographic – A quick look at why great whites sometimes attack humans and what they prefer to eat.
  2. Great white shark attack – BBC Footage of the great white’s stealth attacks on seals.
  3. Hunting techniques of the great white shark – BBC wildlife How the shark’s senses help it catch seals.
  4. Great white shark – most deadly shark in the water? Ultimate Killers – BBC wildlife Great whites sharks may be blamed for attacks by bull sharks.
  5. Great White shark feeding – Wildlife Specials: Great White Shark – BBC Narration by David Attenborough from a Wildlife Special about Great White Sharks at feeding time.
  6. Great White Shark chomping on my cage off Guadalupe Mexico by Arvil Price – Stunning footage of a great white visiting a cage diver.
  7. Killer Sharks vs. Killer Whales by ABC News – ABC News look at what happens when a great white meets an even more powerful predator than itself.


Click here to view the complete list of sources…


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