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 Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

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Great white shark
 Range Map

Earth Map


Phylum: Vertebates (Chordata)

Class: Carlilagenous Fishes (Chondrichthyes)
  Order: Mackerel sharks (Lamniformes)
    Family: Mackerel sharks (Lamnidae)
      Genus: Carcharodon (Carcharodon)


Scientific: Carcharodon carcharias
German: Weisser Hai, Weisshai
English: Great white shark, white shark, white pointer, white death
French: Grand requin blanc
Spanish: Jaqueton blanco


Heavy spindle-shaped body, with a moderately long and pointed snout. Large gill slits. Origin of first dorsal fin over the free ends of the pectoral fins. Minute second dorsal fin. Very large pectorals. Crescentic caudal fin, strong keels on peduncle.


Blue-grey to grey-brown coloration on back, with white ventral surface. Black blotches around the free rear ends of the pectoral fins. Undersides of the pectoral fin tips are black.


Patchy yet nearly worldwide in temperate waters. Found rarely during winter months in subtropical and tropical areas, too. Western Atlantic: Newfoundland to Florida, Bahamas, Cuba and northern Gulf of Mexico; Brazil and Argentina. Eastern Atlantic: Southern Great Britain, France to Mediterranean, Senegal, Ghana, Zaire. Western Cape Province, South Africa. Western Indian Ocean: South Africa, Seychelles, Red Sea. Western Pacific: Siberia, Japan, Korea, China, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand. Central Pacific: Marshall Islands, Hawaiian Islands. Eastern Pacific: Gulf of Alaska to Gulf of California; Panama to Chile.


A huge and powerful shark, very active with a stiff (scombroid-like) mode of swimming. Due to its feeding behavior, white sharks are often found in the vicinity of seal populations (South Australia, South Africa, California). White sharks possess a higher body temperature due to a modified circulatory system that enables them to retain a body temperature warmer than the surrounding water (up to 10 to 15 °C higher). This offers a higher activity level due to an increase in muscle power. Although white sharks mostly live solitary they can be found in small aggregation and are social animals.


Marine mammals are a very important source including pinnipeds (such as harbour seals, northern elephant seals, sea lions and others), dolphins and porpoises. Also feed on other sharks (houndsharks, requiem sharks, hammerheads and others) and bony fishes. Furthermore, they often feed on dead animals such as baleen whales and other large cetaceans.


Maximum size at least 640 cm but most certainly larger (due to jaw imprints on dead whales). Average size between 400 cm and 500 cm. Weight can vary strongly do to an unproportional increase of girth with size. Animals between 580 cm and 640 cm weigh more than 2000 kg.


Aplacental viviparous (ovoviviparous), embryos feed on eggs (oophagous). Pregnant females are hardly ever found suggesting that there is a spatial separation during that period of time. Number of pups is unknown, although a female was once found in the Mediterranean with 9 youngs. Males reach sexual maturity around 350 cm (average), females with 400 cm. Pups show a fast growth rate.

 Similar Species

Similar to Porbeagle but that species possesses two lateral keels on the peduncle, no dark blotches at the free rear ends of the pectoral fins. Porbeagles also have a white spot at the free rear end of the first dorsal fin.


Status in the IUCN Red List(1994):

Main criterion: > VU (Vulnerable)
Sub criterion: A1cd A2cd
Trend: Unknown

 Danger to Humans

Highly dangerous.

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