White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

Although a relatively uncommon deep-water fish, the white shark occasionally enters shallow waters and will attack, without provocation, humans and small boats alike; because it often lingers near islands and offshore colonies of seals and sea lions, which are some of its preferred foods, it is thought that some attacks on humans occur because the white shark mistakes divers or surfers in wet suits for seals.

It is undoubtedly the most dangerous shark, due to a combination of size, strength, ability, and disposition to attack and because of the many recorded attacks that have taken place in the twentieth century.

Growing to 26 feet but usually less than 16 feet in length, the white shark has a stout, heavy body that may be a dull slate blue, grayish-brown, or almost black above, turning dirty white below. There are black edges on the pectoral fins, and often there is a black oval blotch on the body just above or behind the fins.

The large head ends in a point at the conical snout, which accounts for the name "white pointer". There is a large, distinct, flattened keel on either side of the caudal peduncle and a greatly reduced second dorsal fin. A distinguishing feature is its set of large triangular teeth with sharp, serrated cutting edges.

Most whites are found in temperate or even cool waters worldwide and close to a source of the marine mammals they prefer to eat, after growing to large sizes. Actually, there are two much larger sharks, the basking shark of the North Atlantic and the whale shark of the tropics, but these are harmless plankton feeders.

The white shark record—2,664 pounds off South Australia in 1959—continues to be recognized by the IGFA, although a much larger 17-foot specimen of 3,427 pounds was caught on August 6, 1986.

Other Names
white pointer, white death, man-eater, great white shark.