Great White Shark

Carcharodon carcharias

Great White Shark

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
  • Superclass: Chondrichthyes
  • Class: Chondrichthyes
  • Subclass: Elasmobranchii
  • Superorder: Euselachii
  • Order: Lamniformes
  • Family: Lamnidae
  • Genus & species: Carcharodon carcharias

Fast 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.

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Adams, Douglas H., Michael E. Mitchell, and Glenn R. Parsons. 1994. Seasonal Occurrance of the White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in Waters off the Florida West Coast, with Notes on Its Life History. Mar. Fish. Rev., 56(4): 24-28.

Ainley, David G., Craig S. Strong, Harriet R. Huber, T. James Lewis, and Stephen J. Morrell. 1981. Predation by Sharks on Pinnipeds at the Farallon Islands. Fish. Bull., 78: 941-945.

Ames, Jack A., and G. Victor Morejohn. 1980. Evidence of White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, Attacks on Sea Otters, Enhydra lutris. Calif. Fish and Game, 66(4): 196-209.

Anderson, Scot D., and Kenneth J. Goldman. 1996. Photographic Evidence of White Shark Movements in California Waters. Calif. Fish and Game, 82(4): 182-186.

Armstrong, Sue. 1994. Great White Sharks Defy Hollywood Image. New Sci., 144(1955) [10 December 1994]: 16.

Arnold, P.W. 1972. Predation on Harbour Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, by a White Shark,Carcharodon carcharias. J. Fish. Res. Bd. Can., 29(8): 1213-1214.


Great whites are found mostly along the coasts of Australia, South Africa, California and the northeastern United States. They are also found in fewer numbers around the Azores, Brazil, the Caribbean, northwestern Africa, eastern Africa, the Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, northern Australia, New Caledonia, the Philippines and Hawaii. They prefer warm, salty, temperate coastal seas. The great white can swim not only on the surface, but also more than 820 feet (250 m) deep, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List.
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Great white sharks are blue-gray on the dorsal, or top, part of their bodies. This helps them blend in with the bottom of the ocean when viewed from above. The belly, or ventral, part of the body, is white. This makes it difficult to see the sharks from below, with sunlight shining in around them. They have strong, torpedo-shaped bodies and powerful tails that help them swim. Great whites can reach speeds up to 24 km/hr (15 mph).


Great white sharks are carnivores. Their diet consists of small-toothed whales, sea lions, seals, sea turtles and carrion (dead animals), according to National Geographic.
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Great White Shark

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Great White Shark