A Quick Guide to Understanding One of the Most Misunderstood Creatures in the Sea

Article by Melissa Solorzano

In an ocean full of different creatures, the great white shark is one of the most misunderstood animals of them all.

When author Peter Benchley and director Steven Spielberg created the novel and film, Jaws, they didn’t know the damaging reputation they would create for great white sharks worldwide.

Contrary to how Hollywood movies depict great white sharks and aside from what many people think, great whites are extremely peaceful and curious creatures that try to avoid human contact. Aside from the ancient megalodon, great whites can grow up to 20 feet long, and can weigh up to 5 thousand pounds. To learn more about their size, this incredible article by National Geographic shows the difference in the length of sharks compared to a human.

Lucy, a massive female Great White Shark. Image Credit: Lwp Kommunikáció

Great white sharks are considered to be epipelagic fish, meaning they don’t like to be at the bottom of the ocean or near the shore and swim in waters that are comfortable to their body temperature. They can be found in most parts of the ocean including off the coasts of the United States, South Africa and Japan. According to Nat Geo, “great whites are the largest predatory fish on Earth” and they like to eat “sea lions, seals, small toothed whales, and even sea turtles, and carrion.”

Live Science shares some fun facts on their website about great white sharks. For example, how “they have a tongue made of cartilage called a basihyal” and how they, “use it to sample prey, to see if it is a good idea to eat it or not.” Though shark bites can be deadly, this is why many people have survived shark attacks. After one bite, they figure out that humans are not what they want for dinner. Sharks don’t like the taste of humans, their bodies can’t digest our bones and little muscle properly.

The female great white shark dominates the male great white. The females tend to be bigger in size and intimidate the males when hunting. Their instinct is to stay alive and when they get hungry, they will do anything to survive. Just like any wild animal, they are not dangerous unless they feel threaten or are hungry. In the wild, and especially in the ocean, survival is crucial.

Great whites are one of the apex predators of the ocean, meaning that, along with orca whales, they are at the top of the food chain and are in charge of keeping a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Without them, our oceans would be highly populated, which would cause a lot of damage.

In an interview with TreeHugger.com, Andy DeHart, Discovery Channel’s shark adviser, said this about all sharks, “these are the animals that are controlling stingray populations, these are the animals that are keeping fish populations healthy. Sharks by nature are fairly slow to reproduce, they have very few young and they just can’t stand that type of fishing pressure.” The most frightening thing he says is that, “within our lifespan we might see that these animals do become reproductively extinct.

Why are sharks in danger of extinction? Well, the biggest threat to great whites and all types of sharks are humans. According to One Green Planet, “An estimated 100 million sharks are killed for their fins every year.” Humans kill more sharks than sharks kill people and, “shark populations have decreased by 60 to 90 percent in just the last 15 years because of the shark fin trade.” If this doesn’t stop, sharks will face extinction and without them, our oceans will have to face many different challenges that will affect humans dramatically and even fatally.

Image Credit: Jeffrey

Their protection is crucial to our environment and our oceans. At the end of they day, all shark attacks can be prevented and people must respect their environment. Without them, we are basically in more danger than we are when entering the ocean.

Feature Image: Elias Levy

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