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Published on June 13th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie


Great White Shark: Adapted Athlete

The Great White Shark may live in more places than just the open seas. They also occupy a special place in public consciousness. Wrongly vilified as a mindless eating machine, they are anything but. Yet despite all that is known about these magnificent creatures the image created by the film Jaws is hard to shake off.

But when we think about these animals we should instead concentrate on their incredible longevity as a species and their amazing adaptations. For if Great Whites are one thing they are the supreme athletes of the oceans.

Great White Shark Picture (Image)

Great White Sharks are true athletes. Constantly, moving they cover huge ground on a daily basis. However, when the need arises they can also sprint incredibly speeds over short distances with speeds of over 65 kilometres (40 miles) recorded.

To help them be as efficient as possible and reduce their weight, sharks entire skeletons are made from cartilage which is much lighter and more flexible than bone.

Stillness Equals Death

Great White Sharks are fish. This means that they use gills to breathe oxygen. Gills are feather like structures (not unlike the air filter of a car) that are saturated with blood vessels. Water passes through the blood vessels and oxygen is transferred providing life to the shark.

Great Whites, like other sharks, must keep constantly moving in the water to run water through their gills to obtain oxygen. If they remain still they will die from asphyxiation.

Great White Shark In Monterey Bay Aquarium Photo By Mila Zinkova

Aerodynamic Toothed Skin

Great Whites’ skin is both rough and smooth to the touch depending on the direction that it is rubbed. Their skin is different from every other animals and indeed quite strange.  White Shark’s skin is made from the same substances, dentine and enamel, that are found in their teeth. Essentially, their skin consists of loads of micro teeth.

Massive Liver And Optimum Digestive System

The Great White Shark’s liver is gigantic, larger than many whales’ livers. Divided into three huge lobes, the reason why its liver is so big is that it helps to control buoyancy as it is filled with oil called squalene. Oil of course being lighter than water.

Unlike other animals, the Great White Shark’s digestive tract is highly compact. Instead of being metres upon metres of intestines, there intestines are at most two metres in length.

It achieves this remarkable level of compactness by having a system of food-absorbing spiral valves all along the intestine. So it filters out nutrition and all the necessary energy as optimally as possible from the waste.

Great White Shark Scale Compared To Man

Warm Blooded Not Cold Blooded

Despite the widespread belief that as fish, Great Whites are cold-blooded, this is not the case. In fact, they thermoregulate their bodies.

The continual movement of the shark, and more specifically the heat that the muscles produce in keeping the shark moving, creates huge amounts of heat. Much of this heat is produced by the powerful tail.

The fact that Great Whites are warm-blooded is highly advantageous. They can digest food much more rapidly than if they were cold-blooded and this gives them more energy. Plus it makes their organs, including the brain much more efficient.

Sprint Locomotive

Over short distances, great white sharks can propel themselves to very high speeds. They manage to do this using the muscles located in their tails. So powerful are these muscles that the sharks can launch their entire bodies out of the water on top of their prey.

Their tail contains two types of muscles, one which provides constant movement to continually power the shark through the water huge distances. The other is for short, rapid bursts.
Great White Shark Photo By Mila Zinkova

Evolutionary Longevity And Adaptiveness

Great White Sharks are one of the most amazing creatures on Earth. Their ability to adapt themselves to their environment has proven to be one of the main reasons for their success.

Over 400 million years of evolution has seen this animal become thetop predatory fish in our waters if humans last a ten of that time we will be doing exceedingly well.

Recommended Amazon Reading

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Strange And Complex Behaviour Of The Great White Shark,  Great White Shark: Supreme Senses and Great White Shark: The Reality Of Its Jaws for further insight into this complicated creature.

Great White Shark by Richard Ellis and John McCosker is a fascinating book on the subject of White Sharks. It comprehensively explores the shark’s biology and why it should be conserved.

At present, the Great White Shark is one of the most endangered species on the planet and this is completely unnecessary.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access Great White Shark here.
For those living in Canada you can obtain Great White Shark from here.
For Germany: Great White Shark.
For France: Great White Shark.

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