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Carcharadon carcharias - the great white shark - fact list, myth quiz



A few facts about Carcharodon carcharias, otherwise known as the Great White Shark:

The Great White Shark is found in all major oceans. It is usually found close to the water surface, but has been recorded at ocean depths of over 1,200 metres. The large, predatory fish is found in greater concentrations off southern Australia, South Africa and California.

The Great White Shark can reach lengths of more than six metres, although a typical adult Great White measures around four metres and up to 1,100kg. Female sharks are usally larger than their male counterparts.

There has been much contention over the years about the size of the largest Great White Shark ever found. The largest one recognised by the International Game Fish Association is a shark caught in south Australian waters in 1959 - it weighed in at a sizeable 1,208 kg.

There have been claims of larger Great White Sharks, but there is usually no verification, or (as with most fishing stories) the shark has been found to be smaller than claimed.

The question of the recorded weight of a shark is also complicated by the question of whether to account for the weight of whatever food is left inside its belly. It is reported that a Great White can take in up to 14kg of food with one bite.

Great White Sharks have more than one row of teeth. This allows any that might happen to break off to be replaced quickly.

Needless to say, they are carnivorous and primarily eat fish, dolphins and whale carcasses. They typically ambush their prey, taking their target by surprise from below.

They are also known to kill humans, however, it is unusual for the shark to target mankind - despite what Hollywood might have you believe.

In most reported attacks on humans, Great Whites have broken off contact after the first bite. Death is usually caused by loss of blood rather than from being eaten whole.

The Great White Shark is the only surviving species of its genus. Since April 2007 they are fully protected within 200 nautical miles of New Zealand. It is not against the law to accidentally kill one, but it is illegal not to inform the Department of Conservation if one is caught or killed.

- Courtesy TVNZ

Shark myths Do you understand sharks as well as you think...

Myth 1 – Dogs attract sharks – TRUE

Yes, they do! If you are swimming with your dog and there is a shark in the vicinity it is going to hone in on both the smell and the paddling action of the dog. If there is a shark downstream or down current and it can smell the animal, it will come upstream and have a look at it... at the very least!

Myth 2 – If a shark attacks you, you should punch it in the nose as hard as you can and/or gouge it’s eyes – TRUE

Punching the shark in the nose definitely does work. The receptors on their nose are really sensitive organs and yes, it can deter the shark if you punch it hard enough. As for gouging out the shark's eyes - it would work if you could get a good shot but they are a tough target - and so this technique is not recommended. If you miss and agitate or injure the shark, that could make it more aggressive or attract other sharks to the area.

Myth 3: Frantic paddling attracts sharks – TRUE

Certain irregular movements, such as those made by a swimmer in trouble or a wounded fish or seal, seem to attract sharks. So, try to avoid it if you can. However, if you are caught in the water face to face with a shark of any description, chances are you are going to freestyle your way out of there rather than quietly breast-stroking away!

Myth 4: Torches attract sharks’ attention – TRUE

Torches attract the attention of sharks and suggest that something interesting is in the water. Some shark species can detect a light that is as much as ten times dimmer than the dimmest light the average person can see. Avoid swimming at night with a torch! In fact, avoid swimming at night at all.

Myth 5: Chilli and magnetic fields deter sharks – FALSE... and true.

There is no evidence for the idea that chilli deters sharks and realistically, what swimmer or surfer is going to carry around a chilli in the ocean?! On the other hand, magnetic fields seem to be a plausible deterrent as they emit sound waves at a frequency undesirable to sharks.

Myth 6: Sharks are man-eaters – FALSE

Sharks are not man eaters. Since the year 1580, only 10 of 400 species were involved in unprovoked fatal attacks. Sharks are not out to get humans, however Tiger Sharks and White Pointers are quite aggressive and may gulp down anything it encounters, including shoes, license plates and canned goods (still in the can), but most species of sharks prefer to eat fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

Sharks - Surfersvillage



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