The Great, Great White Shark

Great WhiteGreat White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are amazing creatures. After catching a short but insightful IMAX film in The Omni-Theatre, titled ‘Great White Shark’, we now have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the creature that lurks beyond our shores.

Narrated by Bill Nighy, the film dives straight into the ocean, bringing viewers on an underwater adventure filled with enthralling footage of the Great White in action. Great Whites have existed long before mammals, birds or dinosaurs, almost half a billion years ago. A Great White can grow up to an impressive 6.4m in length, which is about four times the height of an average human adult!

Despite their formidable size, they can also reach speeds of up to 24 km/hr. It is no wonder they are the greatest predators of the sea. Here are some other facts about Great Whites.

Great Whites reside largely in the coastal and offshore waters of the Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Mediterranean Oceans, where the temperatures range from 12°C to 24°C. These are the areas where their prey is commonly found: fur seals, sea lions, other sharks, whales and dolphins.

Great Whites are one of the primary predators of the sea and are well-equipped with ‘weapons’ for them to hunt down their prey. These weapons include:

  • Hypersensitivity: Great White sharks are extremely sensitive to electromagnetic signals generated by the movement of living animals. It is like an extra sense for the Great White, which can detect half a billionth of a single volt!
  • Razor-Sharp Teeth: Great White Sharks, like many other sharks, are equipped with multiple rows of jagged teeth. Their mouths with over 300 razor-sharp teeth, act as a saw, removing chunks of flesh from their prey. Each Great White Shark’s tooth has serrated edges like a saw! Imagine how easily it can saw through a seal. Yikes!
  • Camouflage: By having a white underside and a grey top (sometimes in a brown or blue shade), it makes it difficult for prey to spot the shark from above or below it. The dull colours break up the shark’s outline when seen from the side, causing the prey to miss the shark until it’s too late to escape from its waiting jaws.

Great Whites are apex predators – as they pretty much sit at the top of the food chain. But they have one weakness. Orcas or killer whales are pretty much the Achilles’ heel of the Great Whites. Orcas are known to eat Great Whites through suffocation, by flipping them belly-side up, and forcing them to drown. The hunter becomes the hunted!

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Comparison between the Great White and a human
Source: Kurzon

Humans and Sharks
In the year 2012, there were 272 documented cases of unprovoked shark attacks. Does that mean that the beach is a dangerous place to be in? Well, the probability of a shark attack is very rare. In fact, when swimming out at sea, you are three times more likely to drown than to get attacked by a shark! Often, the main reason why sharks attack humans is due to a simple issue of misunderstanding.

From the perspective of a shark, a human surfer might bear similar characteristics to other marine animals when viewed from below. Under certain conditions such as low light, sharks can sometimes make a misidentification, and attack.

If you want to see a Great White, you can go on thrilling cage diving expeditions that take you up close and personal in the Shark’s natural habitats!   Eager to find out more about Great Whites? Head over to the Omni-Theatre to catch a glimpse into the lives of sharks underwater!

This post has been adapted from an article on the Great White Shark by Koh Ting Yew and Tan Boon Ghim, two students from Temasek Junior College during their internship at Science Centre Singapore.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. leslie says:

    Wow, i didnt know that the sharks are such fascinating creatues! The passive-aggressive instincts these creatures possess never fails to amaze me!

    1. Danny says:

      That’s right Leslie. What we’ve figured out so far is really fascinating. And there’s still so much more to demystify like exactly how apex predators like Great Whites pick or time their kill! My newly wedded cousin and her hubby just returned from Cape Town where they checked out what was on offer in some of these cage diving expeditions!

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