The infamous great white barely needs an introduction. After skyrocketing to fame in 1975 thanks to Steven Spielberg's hit movie Jaws, these majestic, yet somewhat misunderstood, creatures are one of the most well-known shark species worldwide.
Unfairly labelled as 'man-eaters', great whites, like most sharks, play a key role in the food chain and are vital components of a healthy ocean. Once shrouded in mystery, scientific research has chipped away at the image of great whites as mindless killers and shed some light on the fantastic adaptations that make them one of the best predators on the planet.
To learn exactly what these adaptations are, plus a whole lot more, keep reading below to discover our top ten great white shark facts:
1. Great White Sharks Are the Largest Predatory Fish on Earth
Great white sharks are the fourth largest shark on Earth (after megamouth sharks, basking sharks and whale sharks) and are the largest predatory fish.
On average, great whites reach around 14.7 feet long, however, the largest one ever recorded was over 20 feet long. Affectionately nicknamed 'Deep Blue,' this female shark was estimated to be roughly 50 years old and weighed around two-and-a-half tonnes
2. Great White Sharks Are Warm-blooded
Most sharks are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature is regulated by their environment or how active they are. Great white sharks, on the other hand, are warm-blooded. Warm-blooded creatures, like humans, can maintain their internal body temperature.
What's more, great white sharks can adjust their body temperature according to their surroundings. This is beneficial as it enables great whites to move quickly in colder water so they aren't confined to tropical seas. It also means that great white sharks swim faster than other sharks, reaching speeds of up to 35mph in short bursts.
3. Great White Sharks Have an Amazing Sense of Smell
It will probably come as no surprise that great whites have an incredible sense of smell. They are well known for their ability to sense small amounts of blood in water, but to put this into a measurable quantity, they can detect one drop of blood in 100 litres of water.
4. Great White Sharks Have Toxic Blood
One of our most obscure great white shark facts is that they have highly toxic blood. Research shows that their blood contains extremely high levels of mercury and arsenic, which other animals simply wouldn't be able to tolerate. Despite this, great whites don't show any symptoms of heavy metal blood poisoning.
The reason they have such high concentrations of heavy metals in their blood is due to a process called bioaccumulation. As top predators, sharks accumulate heavy metals in their tissues from all the prey they consume.
5. Great White Sharks Are Born Hunters
As soon as great white sharks are born, they're already prepared to fend for themselves. While great whites start off as eggs, they hatch inside the womb. In the womb, the shark embryos eat unfertilised eggs to help them grow as well as their smaller and weaker siblings.
The result is that only the strongest shark pups make it out of the womb. When they are born, great white sharks are already between four and five feet long and equipped to leave their mother and start hunting smaller creatures.
6. Great White Sharks Have Their Own Predators
Despite being apex predators at the top of the food chain, great white sharks still have predators. Orcas, or killer whales, are fearless shark hunters and are probably the only creatures that great whites are scared of.
Studies show that great whites will actually flee their usual hunting grounds and stay away for as long as a year when killer whales enter the area.
7. Great White Sharks Aren’t the Man-hunters We Think They Are
Jaws may have painted great white sharks as killing machines, but attacks on humans are very rare, especially considering how many people swim in the ocean every day. As of May 2020, there were only 326 unprovoked great white shark attacks ever recorded, 52 of which were fatal.
8. Great White Sharks Are Curious Creatures
These majestic creatures are extremely curious and have been recorded swimming up to brightly coloured objects (like kayaks, buoys and paddle boards) to get a closer look. The problem is, they sometimes take a little bite or nibble to understand what they're seeing.
Since sharks don't have hands to touch and feel objects, their teeth are flexible and can move around in their jaw, giving them a better idea of what they're biting.
9. Great White Sharks Are Well Camouflaged
While a great white sharks camouflage skills might come as a surprise, their white and grey bodies were designed to help them sneak up on unsuspecting prey.
They're grey on top to blend into the rocky sea floor, making them hard to spot if you're looking down at them. If they're swimming above you, their white bellies blend into the sunlight, making them the ultimate camouflaged killer.
10. Great White Sharks Can Sense Electric Fields
Our last great white shark fact is that they can have special receptive sensory organs that can detect electromagnetic fields. These organs are called the ampullae of Lorenzini. They are open pores filled with conductive jelly, found on the nose and lower jaws of a shark.
Saltwater is conductive and when marine life moves in the water, it creates small electric currents. These currents are detected by a shark's ampullae of Lorenzini letting them know something is moving nearby.