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Great White Shark Taxonomy & Description

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Sub-Phylum: Vertebrata (vertebrates)
Class: Chrondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
Sub-Class: Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays)
Order: Lamniformes
Family: Lamnidae
Genus: Carchardon
Species: C. carcharias
Description: Extremely Large Shark, torpedo shaped body with silver to blue-grey top color and white underside with a pointed snout. Standard Dorsal fin (top), pectoral fins (bottom - front and rear) and Caudal fin (crescent shaped tail). Great Whites have two additional small pelvic fins. It is these fins that propel and guide them through the water in almost a streamlined motion like that of an airplane. Skeletal composition of cartilage. Great White Sharks have five gill slits. CLICK HERE TO SEE ANIMAL WEBCAMS

Shark Teeth: Great Whites have teeth in rows with over 3,000 arranged in several rows. Great White Shark teeth are triangularly shaped, saw-like and serrated on the edges. These teeth rotate into position as needed to replace worn or damaged teeth and average 3 inches in length.

Range: Cool shallow waters and temperate coastlines from California to Alaska, the East Coast of the U.S., most of the U.S. Gulf Coast, Hawaii, Mediterranean Sea, South America, South & West Africa, New Zealand & Australia (except the north coast), to Scandinavia, Japan, and the eastern coastline of China to Russia.

Habitat: Inhabits all ocean waters, frequenting both deep and coastal waterways, particularly Islands with high populations of Pinnipeds (Seals, Elephant Seals and Sea Lions). Great Whites frequent temperate coastlines but occasionally make deep water dives. Great Whites are found in water as shallow as three feet deep, and as deep as 4,200 feet.

Average Weight: 3,000-5,000 lbs average, recorded specimens documented at 7,000 lbs.

Average Length: 10-15 feet average, recorded specimens reaching 19-21 feet.

Diet: Pinnipeds (Seals, Elephant Seals, Sea Lions), other fish, dolphins, Otters, sea turtles, sharks, squid, small toothed whales like Beluga Whales, Killer Whales & other whale carcasses & carrion.

Gestation Period: Variable mating season with gestation up to 1 year. Pups may be 5 ft in length at birth. Great White Shark pups immediately swim away from their mother at birth so there is no maternal care-giving.

Maturity: The Great White reaches maturity about 6 1/2 - 7 years after birth. Sexually mature at 9 years of age.

Reproduction: As with mammals, females are fertilized internally. However, instead of a penis, the male uses a pair of erective claspers on the inner edge of the pelvic fin. These claspers often have spurs, like the penis of a Tiger, for holding on and forcing seminal fluid into the female oviduct. The Great White Shark may have litters of up to 7-9 pups. Extremely low reproduction rate with females normally only reproducing twice in her whole lifetime. The growth rate of the Great White shark is about 25-30 cm per year. Females tend to travel to warmer waters to give birth.

Lifespan: Average 40 to 60 years but may live up to 100 years.

Predators: Apex Predator (No natural predators) except Man.

Social Structure: Solitary, except when mating but have been observed traveling together.

Population: Exact numbers are unknown, but population is known to be in steady decline.

Conservation Status: Threatened in Australia since 1997. Great White Sharks are currently listed on Cites Appendix II. Also, in July 2004 the Australian Environmental Ministry increased the protected area of the Great Barrier Reef from 4.5% to 33% making it the largest sea reserve in the world - great news for protecting one of the habitats of the Great White Shark.

Threats: Sports Trophy Hunters, over-fishing, trawler nets, commercial longliners. Other threats include incidental entanglement in fishing gear and environmental contaminants and pollution.

Other Information: Some of the most dangerous Sharks in the World known to attack man are the Great White Shark, Tiger Shark, Bull Shark, Blacktip Shark, and Hammerhead Shark.

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