Great White Shark | WWF

Great White Shark

Great white shark (<i>Carcharodon carcharias</i>. rel=
Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias).
© WWF / Wildlife Pictures / Jêrome Mallefet

The world's largest known predatory fish

The great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, also known as white pointer, or white shark is an exceptionally large lamniforme shark found in coastal surface waters in all the major oceans. (Laniforme sharks have large mouths which extend behind the eyes.)

Reaching lengths of about 6m and weighing 2,250kg, the great white shark is the world's largest known predatory fish. It is also the only known surviving species of its genus, Carcharodon.

They have a conical snout, pitch black eyes, a heavy, torpedo-shaped body, and a crescent-shaped, nearly equal-lobed tail fin that is supported on each side by a keel fin.

The great white shark is a streamlined swimmer and a ferocious predator with 3,000 teeth present in its jaw at any one time.

Their pups can be over 1.5m (5ft) long at birth.

An attack strategy consists of a swift, surprise attack from below, inflicting a large, potentially fatal bite.

Great whites do not chew their food.

Their teeth rip prey into mouth-sized pieces which are swallowed whole. A big meal can satisfy a great white for up to 2 months.

The great white's nostrils can smell 1 drop of blood in almost 100 litres (25 gallons) of water.

The great white is the only type of shark that will go to the surface and poke its head up out of the water (known as spyhopping - something that whales tend to do a lot).

It has been recently discovered that great white sharks can jump entirely out of the water.

Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Great whites are decreasing in numbers and are rare due to years of being hunted by man.

However at certain places in Australia, South Africa and California cage diving with great whites can be done. The merits of cage diving are constantly under discussion.

They are now listed as vulnerable on the IUCN RedList of Threatened Species.


Humans are not healthy for great white sharks to eat because they digest food too slowly to cope with the human body's high ratio of bone to muscle/fat. This is why, in general, great whites tend to stop an attack after the first bite. Fatalities are usually caused by loss of blood from the initial injury rather than being eaten per se by the shark.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions