Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish in the sea.
The Predator Beneath the Surface
Demonized by the Jaws films, the great white shark enjoys a fearsome reputation as a man-eater. It does indeed record more annual fatal attacks than other sharks, but this statistic has more to do with the fact that it is more easily identified than a predilection for human flesh. Because the shark is so easily recognized, a higher proportion of attacks are reported annually. In any case, the few fatalities per year are paltry compared to the 500 associated with elephants, tens of thousands from snake bites, or millions from mosquitoes.
Stretching as long as 22 feet and weighing as much as 5,000 pounds, the great white shark is the largest predatory fish in the seas and a top tier predator in tropical and temperate waters in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Large and aggressive, its favorite prey are animals high in body fat like seals and sea lions. It also preys on fish, dolphins and whales.
When hunting, the shark lurks until it spots prey, then accelerates quickly and rams into the animal, stunning it while tearing off a large piece of flesh at the same time. It then returns to feed off the carcass. Great white sharks often sustain serious damage from prey, and many bear deep scarring on the head from the teeth and claws of elephant seals and sea lions.
The great white shark enjoys widely distributed - although sparse - populations, and the shark has a low reproductive potential. It reaches sexual maturity around 15 years of age, when it may have small litters of up to 9 live young. The great white is exceedingly vulnerable to incidental capture, but it is also targeted specifically for the illegal sale of jaws, teeth, leather and fins. The IUCN currently lists the species as Vulnerable.