- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Chondrichthyes
- Subclass: Elasmobranchii
- Order: Lamniformes
- Family: Lamnidae
- Genus: Carcharodon
- Species: carcharias
The great white's predatory behavior is poorly understood, but scientists are beginning to learn more about their curious nature. When a shark is presented with an unfamiliar object, it will "attack" it to determine if it is a potential food source, often using the technique of a surprise attack from below. If the object is determined unpalatable (which is usually the case when a great white bites a human), the shark releases the prey and determines not to eat it. This is evidenced by seabirds and sea otters with wounds from white shark encounters.
While great white shark attacks aren't a big threat to humans in the grand scheme of things (you're more likely to die from a lightning strike, alligator attack or on a bicycle than from a great white shark attack), white sharks are the #1 species identified in unprovoked shark attacks, a statistic that doesn't do much for their reputation.
This is more likely because of their investigation of potential prey than a desire to eat humans. Sharks prefer fatty prey with lots of blubber like seals, and whales - and don't generally like us - we have too much muscle! See the Florida Museum of Icthyology's Relative Risk of Shark Attacks to Humans site for more information on how likely you are to be attacked by a shark versus other dangers.
That said, nobody wants to be attacked by a shark. So if you're in an area where sharks may be seen, reduce your risk by following these shark attack tips.
The white shark is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because they tend to reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to targeted white shark fisheries and as bycatch in other fisheries. Because of their fierce reputation gained from Hollywood movies such as "Jaws," there is illicit trade in white shark products such as jaws and teeth.
- Compagno, L., Dando, M. and S. Fowler. 2005. Sharks of the World. Princeton University Press.
- Fergusson, I., Compagno, L. & Marks, M. 2000. Carcharodon carcharias. (Online) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. Accessed September 6, 2009.
- Martins, C. and C. Knickle. White Shark (Online). Florida Museum of Natural History Icthyology Department. Accessed September 6, 2009.
- Viegas, J. Largest Great White Shark Don't Outweigh Whales, But They Hold Their Own (Online). Discovery Channel: Discovery Shark Guide. Accessed September 6, 2009.