SHARK WEEK: The Great White

The Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias). The thing that nightmares are made of... right? Thanks to the media and movies like Jaws this shark sparks fear in many of those who enter our oceans. But are they really the crazed man-eaters that we've been led to believe? You'd be forgiven for thinking so, with their razor sharp teeth, torpedo-shaped, school bus-sized body, and incredible sense of smell. But they are truly a remarkable and misunderstood species.

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Recent research suggests that great whites are just not interested in us as food. Although they may be the cause of half of the sharks incidences world wide, it is very rare and usually due to mistaken identity. They will usually take an exploratory bite before realising we aren't food and swim away. Whites feed predominantly on seals, sea lions, turtles and small cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and anything else is just not that appetising to them.

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However, due to this fear white shark numbers are in decline and are currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. White sharks have been hunted for decades for their fins and teeth, and often for sport fishing. They are also caught by commercial fisheries as bycatch and become entangled in nets and drumlines that "protect" beach-goers.
But all sharks are so important to our oceans and ocean food-chains. They feed on the sick and weak, thereby keeping the populations of prey species healthy and in balance. Therefore, if you were to remove sharks from the ecosystem disease could spread in the species it feeds on, or sea lions could over-populate causing a decrease in fish populations (which are important commercially). Sharks are also import for tourism. People will pay to see, swim and dive with sharks. So it is important that we protect them. They are worth way more to us alive than dead.

Interesting facts:

  • Great whites don't have bones! They are cartilaginous fish, meaning that their skeleton is made of cartilage.
  • female great whites can take 12-14 years to reach sexual maturity, and have a gestation period of 12-22 months, meaning it can take a long time for great white numbers to increase to historic levels.
  • They can reach speeds of up to 50km/hr (35 miles per hour).
  • They have about 300 teeth in up to seven rows and these teeth are continuously being replaced.

There are some really interesting facts here if you're interested in learning more.

What did you think of my Shark Week posts? Did you find them interesting? is there more you'd like to know? Or are there any ways in which I could improve on this for next time? Let me know in the comments.

The photos in this post were taken in South Australia during a shark diving trip that we took back in 2016.

All images in this post were taken by and remain the Copyright of Ryan Sault unless stated otherwise.
You can see more photos at:
Instagram: @roaming.rammie
Twitter: @sault_photo

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