Great White Sharks

Great White sharks have a breeding ground not far from Cape Town in South Africa. To be more precise, their turf is about 200 km from Capetown in Gansbaai. There are very few observation points in the world, and the fishing village of Gansbaai, near Cape Town, offers the best opportunities for shark diving worldwide.

Great White Sharks - Great White Shark fact sheet

Great White Sharks Cape Town 

South Africa White Shark

Great white sharks fact sheet
- Name: Great White Shark 
- Phylum: vertebrates (Chordata)
- Class: cartilaginous fish ()
- Family: White sharks (Lamnidae)
- Scientific name: Carcharodon carcharias - translated: jagged tooth
- Superorder: Galeomorphii
- Age of Species: about 60 million years
- Possible ancestry: Megalodon 
- Size of females: up to 7 meters
- Size of male: up to 5 meters
- Weight: up to 3.5 tons
- Distinguishing features: Light Colour belly
- Flesh: toxic with a high concentration of mercury and trimethylamine oxide
- Anatomy: Consists of cartilage and has no bones. If it dies it leaves no remains other than the shark's teeth which can survive millions of years. It has a spiral valve and uses its liver as a swim bladder.
- Swimming speed: about 3 to 60 km/h top speed over smaller distances.
- Activity: Day and night
- Body shape: spindle-shaped
- Main propulsion: caudal fin
- Pectoral fins: large
- Pelvic fins: yes
- Anal fin: yes
- Dorsal fin large and small dorsal fin
- Scales: placoid scales - small and very sharp tooth scales that protect the shark from injury. He loses up to 20,000 placoid scales per year which constantly renew themselves. The scales of shark skin are arranged like a mosaic. They also provide an increase in streamlining, by which the shark is a faster and more agile hunter and can develop a top speed of 60 km/h when attacking.
- Hair cells: these are located beneath the skin and react to pressure variations such as a fin stroke from a dolphin or large tuna.

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- Swimming depth: usually 5-1280 meters
- Teeth: Revolver dentition
- Teeth: 300 renewable triangular teeth 
- Length of teeth: up to 7.5 centimetres
- Hearing: poorly formed compared to land animals. It finds prey using its smell and hearing senses. It can sense the motion of its prey, especially injured animals, from a great distance. It can distinguish between pulsating vibrations in the 100 Hertz range and low-frequency sounds below 500 Hertz. It can hereby discern a whale song from a struggling fish. Often such signals in the 100-hertz range come from seals and penguins, which are usually attacked by smaller sharks. In this way the Great White makes its dominance very clear and hunts the smaller sharks’ prey away from it. The shark will in other words respond immediately to any frantic movement in the water.

Gansbaai Cage Diving South Africa

Stimulus signals are generated particularly by surfers on their boards. This probably explains why surfers are attacked by sharks in the first place. It is actually a mistake most of the time, since the contours of a surfboard are similar to a seal - with often fatal consequences for the surfer.
- Communication: probably through swimming motions
- Smell: excellent- it smells its prey or a drop of blood from a distance of about 1,000 metres.
- Sense of taste: He has taste buds in the palatal area. It often tastes its prey first and loses interest quickly if the prey is not to its liking. Many seabirds are injured by sharks merely biting and "taste testing" them. 
- Breathing: through a spiracle that is located between the fin and the eyes. The shark draws salt water in through the spiracle where it is passed on to the gills.
- Blood temperature: up to 14 degrees Celsius
- Social behaviour: from solitary up to 10 sharks in a group
- Diet: seals, penguins, crustaceans, squid, tuna, swordfish, sardines, dolphins, small whales (Grey Whale calves & toothed whales), smaller sharks and carrion.
- Eyes: small relative to their large bodies. Their eyes have a retina, iris and lens. During an attack, the shark will roll its eyes into the posterior cranial region to protect its eyesight. In the last moment of the attack the shark is basically blind and relies on his other senses. In this moment it is actually possible for agile seals or dolphins to flee their victim, but this is relatively rare. In older sharks the hunting success rate is about 50% and in younger sharks approximately 80%.
- Visual acuity: very good. White sharks are capable of distinguishing different light refractions above or below the water’s surface. Since they are very curious they can make out their prey from above or below water. Moreover, they can see better than a cat at night time.
- Photosensitivity: In comparison with humans, the shark’s eyes are ten times more photosensitive. Since both eyes are located at the left and right side of the head, it has a very good panoramic view and can monitor its environment very closely.
- Specialized senses: electrical sense. It can perceive subtle currents with the ''ampullae of Lorenzini''. These are tiny skin channels with many nerve cells located at the mouth.
- Recognition of colours: good colour recognition
- Bite force: 3000-18000 Newton - strongest bite force of all predators 
- Enemies: people, killer whales (Orcinus orca) and rare giant squid
- Sexual maturity: unknown & estimated at approximately 10 years
- Reproduction: bears live young sharks
- Gestation period: approximately 14 to 18 months
- Young: 2 to 14 pups
- Length of young: 1.20 to 1.50 meters
- Weight of young sharks- 26 kg to 32 kg
- Birthplace: Gansbaai near Cape Town
- Best observation period: winter months of South Africa - see Best Time
- Cage diving opportunities: South Africa and Australia
- Lifespan: females about 40 years old – males about 75 years old - only Greenland sharks get older
- Migration patterns: females migrate rarely and males travel distances of over 11,100 km.
- Attacks on marine animals: In general, the white shark quickly attacks its prey from a depth of about 5 meters. Jumps (Shark Breaching) of two to three metres out the water are not uncommon!
- Attacks on humans: relatively rare. Overall about 72 people were attacked in 2014 with three attacks proving fatal. Most attacks are recorded in Florida (USA) due to annual increases in water sport activity and the White Shark's habitat is thereby getting smaller. Many accidents are caused by people as well, such as inexperienced divers who insist on stroking the dorsal fin of a shark or spear fishermen attaching fish to their belt.

Where do Great White Sharks live?
- In all coastal waters except for Antarctica, Arctic, Black Sea and Baltic Sea.
- Countries where Great Whites occur: South Africa (Gansbaai near Cape Town), Australia, USA, New Zealand, Japan and the Mediterranean (rare).
- IUCN Red List: highly endangered

Cape Town Cage Diving

News - Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument:
US President Barack Obama has established the largest protected marine area in the world off the coast of Hawaii. It is four times as large as Germany and protects more than 7,000 marine animals.

We have high hopes that South Africa will also establish more protected areas for marine animals, because if our sharks die, our oceans will die as well.
Great White Sharks
If you are interested in shark trips, we offer daily cage diving adventures from Cape Town. Experience the ocean’s largest predator with our diving safaris in Gansbaai.

We hope you enjoyed our fact sheet on white sharks and we look forward to hearing from you, should you wish to experience the thrill of cage diving with us.

Your Cape Town Shark Tours Team


Contact for Great White Sharks