Great White Shark

Great White Shark

Scientific Classification

Common Name
great white shark, white shark, white pointer, white-death, mango-taniwha
Genus Species
Carcharodon carcharias

Fast Facts

Large-sized, predatory shark with rows of serrated, triangular-shaped teeth. Generally darker on dorsal region and whitish below.
Male: External claspers located on the far underside of the body - forward of the caudal fin - distinguish males.
Average 4.3–5.5 m (14–18 ft). The largest great white ever documented, caught off the coast of Cuba, measured 6.4 m (21 ft).
Average 680–1,800 kg (1,500–4,000 lbs.)
Marine mammals including seals and sea lions, fishes; also scavenge on whale carcasses
Not much is known about the reproduction of the great white shark ; believed to be ovoviviparous ("egg live birth")
Maximum litter size is approximately 10–14
Sexual Maturity
No data
Life Span
No data
Found in all oceanic regions of the world save polar waters. Though not abundant, they are most frequently sighted off the coasts of the United States, Australia, and South Africa.
Great white sharks favor temperate waters worldwide, primarily along coastlines. Additionally, they may be found in tropical and sub-tropical waters.
Global: No data
IUCN: Vulnerable
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Although it is not the largest of all sharks, the great white is the largest predatory shark. Some relatively harmless sharks, like the whale shark, are much larger than the great white.
  2. Scientists can easily identify the teeth of a great white shark. The upper teeth are large, broad, and triangular, while the lower teeth are slightly more slender. All the teeth are serrated. Like other sharks, a great white continually looses its teeth and replaces them with new ones.
  3. Though great white attacks on humans are well documented, they are generally rare. Recent studies suggest that great whites may find humans unpalatable. Attacks probably occur when a shark mistakes a human for a seal or sea lion, the great white's principle prey.
  4. For more information about sharks & rays, explore the Sharks & Rays InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

Great whites are often caught intentionally by fishermen, or incidentally as bycatch. All sharks play an important role in ocean ecosystems; without them, some animal populations would increase tremendously, adversely affecting marine food chains. One way to help conserve sharks is to learn more about them.


Ellis, R. and J.E. McCosker. Great White Shark: The Definitive Look at the Most Terrifying Creature of the Ocean. New York. HarperCollins Publishers. 1991.

Eschmeyer, W.N., Herald, E.S. and H. Hammann. Peterson Field Guide to Pacific Coast Fishes. New York. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1983.

Klimley, A.P and D.G. Ainley. Great White Sharks: The Biology of Charcharodon Charcharias. San Diego, CA. Academic Press. 1996.

Springer, V.G. and J.P. Gold. Sharks in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Washington D.C. Smithsonian Institution Press. 1989.

Wlodarski, L. Sharks: From Fear to Fascination. SeaWorld education Department Publication. San Diego, SeaWorld, Inc. 1999. (IUCN Shark Specialist Group)