13 things you probably didn’t know about Great White Sharks

Great White Sharks1. They have beautiful, baby blue eyes

Now this wouldn’t have been the first thing that you thought about Great White Sharks is it? This makes them different to other sharks, which have black irises. In addition to that, Great White Sharks don’t have eyelids- they just roll their eyes back into their heads for protection.

2. Nobody knows where they give birth

This is a great black hole in shark research! A puzzle which is occupying the mind of many great marine biologists around the world…

3. They have helped scientists lead the way in medical practice

This isn’t specific to Great White Sharks, but we think it is such a great fact that we had to put it in. Due to the shark skin’s unique design, it is almost impossible for living organisms to attach on its surface and grow (this explains why you would never see a shark with algae issues!) Biochemistry engineers have copied this amazing feat of nature to replicate shark skin surfaces to implement in hospital, cutting bacteria growth by over 80%!

4. They can heal themselves

Great whites may have some of the fastest healing rates known in the animal kingdom. They have especially high tolerance to injury and illness. Cases have been recorded of sharks making a full recovery after being severely injured by boats – this is just the case on our shark conservation project in South Africa, where one shark was almost split in half by a propeller. Within 9 months, the Great White Shark was fully recovered!

5. They are fussy eaters

When a whale dies, one of the first species on the scene is the Great White Shark. Research has showed that sharks have shown a preference for where to feed on a whale, starting at the fluke, before moving to feed on the rest of the body. They do not eat everything that comes into their path, so where this myth comes from is still a mystery!

6. Sharks are older than dinosaurs

The first sharks lived more than 400 million years ago, which is 200 million years before the first dinosaurs. Amazingly, they have changed very little over the years since.

7. Their stomachs can leave their bodies

Sound a bit sci fi? It’s because it is! If a shark eats food that it cannot digest, such as a turtle shell or a tin can, it can vomit it out by thrusting its stomach out of its mouth, and then pulling it back in again. Now that’s not something we would like to see!

8. They are not the predators that you think they are

For every human killed by a shark, humans kill two million sharks.

9. Sharks are boneless!

Amazingly for such a large animal, sharks do not have a single bone in their bodies. Their skeleton is made up of cartilage and connective tissue.

10. Mother sharks lose their appetite

Contrary to most pregnant mothers of other species, sharks do not need to eat extra when they are about to give birth. In fact, they naturally lose their appetites so that they won’t be able to eat their own offspring when they are newly born.

11. Sharks often go for several months between meals

Despite what films like Jaws have taught us all, sharks are not actually big eaters. Like lions and other predators, sharks only kill when they are hungry. Some sharks can even live for a year without eating, living off the oil they store in their bodies. Great white sharks will eat about 11 tons of food each year however!

12. Keep on moving!

Sharks such as the great white will drown if they stop moving. They don’t have the muscles they need to pump water through their mouth and over their gills, so as long as they keep moving, the water keeps flowing over their gills, keeping them alive.

13. No need for a male shark to have a baby

It is not unheard of for female sharks to be able to reproduce without any contact from a male. This act is know as parthenogenesis. Only a few cases of parthogenesis have been documented, but some scientists believe that almost any female shark could get pregnant on her own in the right circumstances.

If you are as fascinated by these creatures as we are, and are keen to learn more, why not become a Great White Shark conservation volunteer in South Africa?

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