While the shark in “Jaws” was inspired by a great white shark in New Jersey, this fish is far less scary in reality. Today scientists research these predators more than ever. Therefore, their image of ruthless killing machines is beginning to fade.
Who are great white sharks?
Found in cool, coastal waters around the world, great white shark is the largest predatory fish on Earth. She grows to an average of 15 feet in length, though specimens exceeding 20 feet and weighing up to 5,000 pounds have been recorded. Moreover, slate-gray upper bodies help them blend in with the rocky coastal sea floor. They got the name from their white underbellies. Sharks are torpedo-shaped swimmers with powerful tails that can propel them through the water at speeds of up to 15 mph. They can even leave the water completely, breaching like whales when attacking prey from underneath.
As a highly adapted predator, the great white shark’s mouths are lined with up to 300 serrated, triangular teeth arranged in several rows. They have an exceptional sense of smell to detect prey. Along with that, sharks even have organs that can sense the tiny electromagnetic fields generated by animals. Great white shark’s prey includes other sharks, crustaceans, and sea birds. Larger white sharks will also prey on sea lions, seals, and small toothed whales like orcas.
Of the 100-plus annual shark attacks worldwide, a third to a half are attributed to great white sharks. Most of these, however, are not fatal. Research finds that great whites, which are naturally curious, often “sample bite”. Luckily for us, humans are not actually on the great white’s menu. Fatal attacks, experts say, are typically cases of mistaken identity. Swimmers and surfers can look a lot like their favorite prey, seals, when seen from below.
Great white sharks are at the top of the food chain and aren’t likely to be killed by other sea creatures. Sadly, however, they are under serious threat by human activity. Illegal hunting of these beautiful beasts have meant that today great white sharks are a vulnerable species.
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