Great White Shark Investigating

The Great White Shark

When people hear the word “shark” or, better yet, “great white”, their thoughts immediately jump to movies like Jaws or The Shallows. But the thing is, these movies are just unfair portrayals of these magnificent creatures. There is so much beauty and mystery to uncover surrounding Great Whites. In this article, we will be diving right into their true character!

Anatomy


Surprisingly, the Great White Shark is not completely white, but rather, predominantly grey, blue and brown, which helps them blend in seamlessly with the ocean floor. With their powerful torpedo-shaped bodies, they are capable of reaching incredible speeds of up to 56km per hour!

Have you ever noticed that Great Whites seem to have a constant smile? I guess they love showcasing their rows of sharp serrated teeth that replenish almost weekly. Research has shown that sharks also possess unique personalities. While certain sharks may be timid and less daring, others exhibit bold behaviour and take risks. Some sharks may be genuinely more amiable compared to others within their species, or rather, demonstrate the shark equivalent of being friendly.

Behaviour


A remarkable adaptation that showcases the intelligence and resourcefulness of Great White Sharks is a behaviour known as spy hopping. This is where they partially lift their bodies out of the water to investigate objects at the surface. This behaviour becomes particularly useful when hunting their favourite prey, the cape fur seal, which is often found in rocky outcrops. By spy hopping, the sharks can get a better view of the seals’ location and movements. This behaviour allows them to assess the situation and plan their attack more effectively.

Mistaken Identity


White Sharks are curious creatures and although they are one of the top apex predators of the ocean, attacks are incredibly rare. Sharks lack the sensory perception to deduce everything they detect in the water, and they, therefore, use an exploratory bite to investigate. This is called “test biting”, which is also exhibited by other fish but because of the sharks’ large size, the results are much bigger. On extremely rare occasions, sharks will mistakenly attack humans, but this is only because of confused identity. Our silhouettes resemble those of seals, but once the first bite proves to the shark we're not the seal it initially thought we were the shark retreats. This shows that Great Whites, and all sharks for that matter, are not the bloodthirsty human killing machines most people perceive them to be.

Great white shark swimming from Deposit Photos

Sharks are friends NOT food


Great Whites are in fact, dangerous to humans, though, not in the way you just imagined but rather in a totally different sense! They have extremely high levels of toxic mercury and other metals in their bodies, making them dangerous for human consumption. While Great Whites don’t hunt humans, unfortunately, humans hunt Great Whites. The ever-growing monetary value placed on their fins for shark-fin soup has drastically increased. But what many are unaware of, is the danger it poses to not only human health but the ecosystem.

Vital role


Because they sadly often fall victim to bycatch thanks to commercial fisheries and their money-driven slaughter, there is a drastic decline in the Great White Shark population, and they are now considered vulnerable to endangerment. Despite being depicted as having a ferocious reputation, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the balance in the marine ecosystem and are an essential part of the ocean's biodiversity.

We should be more scared of not seeing these creatures in the ocean than actually seeing them.

 

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