Achieving Hollywood fame in movies like ‘Jaws’ and ‘The Meg’ the great white is one of the most widely known shark species.

They are also the species responsible for the highest number of shark attacks on humans every year, with a high percentage of these being fatal.

What is the Great White Shark?

The great white shark is the world’s largest predatory fish, and one of the most feared creatures in the world. They are the ocean’s apex predator, and one of the most aggressive shark species.

Most prominent in cool seas off South Africa, Australia and the USA, the white shark is a member of the Lamnidae family and the Genus Carcharodon.

Severely scarred great white shark swims at the surface

Great White Shark vs White Shark

The names ‘Great White Shark’ and ‘White Shark’ both refer to the same species.

Scientists generally prefer to use the term White Shark due to the fact that there is no ‘lesser’ or ‘greater’ subspecies variants. However the name has stuck nonetheless and they are most commonly referred to as the Great White Shark or simply Great White.


What does the Great White Shark look like?

Great whites have large, torpedo shaped bodies with giant mouths, pointed heads and iconic shark fins. These are two pectoral fins and a triangular dorsal fin.

White sharks are slate in colour and covered in tiny, tooth-like scales known as ‘dermal denticles. These protect the skin from damage and are constantly replaced. These are incredibly rough to the tough, and can remove skin off a human hand if rubbed the wrong way.

Great white shark swims above a large school of fish

They have a two-tone colouration, dark grey on top and pearl white on the bottom – this is where their name comes from.

Like with other shark species, this is a hunting adaptation which helps them to remain camouflaged from above and below.

When approaching a prey item from below, they will blend in the depth of the ocean floor, or when swimming above they will appear light, similar to the sun’s rays shining in through the surface of the water.

How big is the Great White Shark?

Great white sharks are huge! Adults average between 16 and 18 feet (5-6 meters) but large individuals can grow to well over 20 foot long (7m+). Females are the larger of the two genders and are generally the dominant sex.

Mature great whites weigh between 4,000 and 7,000 pounds (1,800-3175kg) on average.

A woman swims with the world's largest great white shark
The world’s biggest great white shark | @oceanramsey

How many teeth do Great White Sharks have?

Great white sharks have more than 300 razor sharp, serrated teeth. These are arranged in rows and are expertly designed for grabbing and tearing through flesh. Each tooth measure about 3 inches (7.5 centimetres) in length.

Sharks are one of the only species who are able to constantly replace teeth throughout their lives. Replacement sets are pre-grown within their jaws, and are ready to move forwards as soon as any of the current set fall out.

It is thought that great whites can go through more than 20,000 teeth during their lives.

great white shark shows its teeth as it breaches the water

Great White Shark gills

The great white shark has 5 gill slits on either side, which sit in between the mouth and pectoral fins. Gills are how the great white shark is able to extract oxygen from the water.