Bryan Boyd

Dr. Clark




            The great white shark is from the kingdom Animalia, the phylum Chordata, the class Chondrichthyes, the genus Carcharodon, and the species Carcharias. The Greek name Carcharodon carcharias which is derived from carcharos meaning “ragged” and odon meaning “tooth.”  The great white is a fish, yet differ from other fish in many ways. The great white is the largest predatory fish in the world as well as a fish that is composed of cartilage instead of bone. This large size and their aggressive manner has the world scared rightly by them, but we should just be in awe of this incredible physical specimen.

            The exact size of size of the great white shark differs greatly but the average size of this shark varies in the range of ten to fifteen feet. The largest great white shark that has been measured as a specimen is twenty-one feet long. This fact is the one fact that makes Jaw’s actually seem realistic although the rest of the facts are quite science fiction. The body of the shark is shaped like a torpedo with a pointed snout. The average weight of the great white is between one to two tons. This weight and the massive jaw power of this incredible specimen allow it to be quite deadly. These incredible predators can have up to three thousand teeth always located in numerous rows which allows the shark to always have a full mouth of teeth due to each lost teeth replaced by the next row. Each one of these sharks’ teeth is razor sharp, saw toothed, and triangular shaped.

            The location of these sharks varies around the world, but are usually found in the same conditions around the globe. These predators are mostly located in temperate waters close to shoreline. This allows these sharks to be found in most parts of the world including Africa, Australia, China, Japan, North America, South America, Russia, and New Zealand. These choice of locations and their climates are very relative to where the great white’s favorite treats are. These unfortunate animals are sea lions and seals. The great white does not only eat only these animals. They also consume other sharks, fish, and other marine animals. Unfortunately, some human beings have become great white meals but this happening is actually quite rare, which is largely different than the movies Jaws portray. This low occurrence of fatal attacks is due to the way this animal hunts. The great white attacks its prey from below yet usually only one bite. The great white then lets its victim bleed to death. This differs from our distorted portrayal of this beast. When humans usually think of a great white they think of a ruthless killer that constantly attacks its victim until its swallows it whole. Great white sharks are man-biters, not man-eaters.  So of the one hundred shark attacks a year, great whites are attributed to about half or a third. Of the one hundred attacks, thirty are fatal, which means that great whites kill ten to fifteen people every year. Think about how many millions of people are in these waters each year and this number seems quite minute.

            Some other unique traits of these great beasts are their reproduction traits and their sense of smell. First, the great white give birth to live young, which are called pups. When the pups are born they are full developed and once the mother has given birth they are immediately independent. Next, the great white uses its nose for olfactory sense only and not for breathing. The nostril of the shark allows the water in and the shark moves its head side to side with water entering the nostril and passing through the lamellae that are covered with millions of olfactory cells. These cells are responsible for the shark’s killer nose that can sense blood miles away. Finally, the sharks have a large number of tiny black dots that cover its torpedo snout. These pore-like markings are the ampullae of Lorenzi. Each mark is a minute capsule filled with a gel-like substance that is sensitive to electric discharge. This is its secret weapon allows the shark to track down wounded animals. These wounded animals are usually splashing around in the water giving of electrical charges the shark associates with a distressed piece of dinner. Therefore, it is not a good idea to splash around in the water where great whites are located. Most great white shark attacks either are on surfers who the sharks sees as a seal from below or swimmers who sharks see as distressed prey.

            As you can see the great shark is a deadly vicious predator who can be mostly avoided if the right precautions are taken. In my own personal opinion I wouldn’t be caught dead or alive anywhere near one of these creature but opinions are like faces and everyone has their own. Just because you fear something, you don’t have to hate it and wish for its demise. Instead respect this awesome predatory creature always appreciating its awesome stature and ferocious creatures.







Klimley, A.P., Anderson,S.D., Henderson, R..P., and Pyle,P.(1996) Sharks: The Biology of Carcharodon Carcharias, pp.175-191.

Great White Shark,