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Published on June 11th, 2010 | by Yellow Magpie


Great White Shark: The Reality Of Its Jaws

Great White Sharks are the stuff of nightmares. Tooth upon tooth of razor-sharp rows of teeth, each designed to rip huge chunks of flesh from its prey. One of the most terrifying sights is that of the silhouette of a White Shark’s tail fin piercing the water’s skin as it silently stalks one of us.

Fortunately for us, this terrifying image is mythical, the result of careful Hollywood manipulation. The real Great White poses little or no threat to humans. Attacks are very rare and fatalities even rarer.

Flexible Teeth

To cope with the tremendous amount of force that the shark places on its teeth while feeding, each tooth is flexible. There is so much movement that shark’s teeth can move backwards more than five centimetres ( two inches).

Megalodon Tooth Next To Two Great White Shark Teeth Photo By Mila Zinkova

Mass Tooth Production

Although many animals can replace broken teeth, few do so in the manner of a shark. Shark’s teeth are grown in rows. Each row is at a different stage of growth. The row at the back are at the smallest and earliest stage of development while the row at the very front are the functional teeth.

Very slowly, like a conveyor belt, each row moves forward towards the front. So the front teeth are being constantly replaced with new rows of teeth.

Great White Shark Photo By Mila Zinkova

Weak Bite

Shark bites are much weaker than many people imagine. In comparison to a crocodile’s bite, a great white shark’s is roughly five times weaker.

Great White sharks very rarely attack humans. When they do attack people, the vast majority survive. This is because a shark’s first bite is usually exploratory. It will taste the victim to see if it is suitable as food or not.

Generally, these exploratory bites are very weak 10 kilos (20 lbs). Its proper bite usually exerts 40 to 50 kilogrammes (100 lbs) of force.

Great White Shark, Whale Shark And Megalodon By Matt Martyniuk

Flying Jaws

Despite sharks having incredibly powerful muscles, their upper jaw is not attached to the skull. This accounts for their bites being relatively underpowered considering their huge size.

But, far from being disadvantageous, having an upper jaw that is not attached to the skull means the shark can fling its jaws forward. This allows the Great White to take a much larger bite out of its prey. All sharks can do this but the Goblin Shark has taken this ability to the extreme.

The True Jaws: Megalodon

Great White Sharks are now the largest toothed-shark in the water but there was something much, much larger. From the fossilised remains of teeth, scientists have calculated that an extinct type of shark was up to 20 times heavier than White Sharks.

The Megalodon was one of the largest predators to roam the Earth’s waters. Weighing in excess of 100 tonnes, it would completely overshadowed the Great White.

Reconstruction Of Megalodon's Jaws Photo By Serge Illaryonov

A Supreme Animal Unjustly Hunted

Great White Sharks are supreme animals. With their jaws and teeth incredibly advanced after millions of years of evolution, they still are the top predator in our oceans.

However, despite all we now know about the Great White Shark, myths still remain and they are still persecuted. Perhaps why we still choose to hunt this endangered animal has nothing to do with rationality and everything to do with fear. A fear that reveals that we are not as dominant as we would like to think we are.

Recommended Amazon Reading

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Strange And Complex Behaviour Of The Great White Shark, Great White Shark: Adapted Athlete and Great White Shark: Supreme Senses 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.

About the Author

4 Responses to Great White Shark: The Reality Of Its Jaws

  1. Brad says:

    how big is a great whites teeth

  2. Author says:

    Hi Brad, thanks for commenting. They are usually up to 8 centimetres or two and a half inches.

  3. I read they recently found the shark prop used in Jaws I. Apparently the filming company lost the prop at sea during filming.

    I agree the world has create sharks to be more a threat then perceived.

    Here’s an interesting fact Wikipedia reports this about shark attacks –

    “A person’s chance of getting killed by a shark is 1 in 264.1 million “

  4. Author says:

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, you can rest assured that if you do encounter a shark it is highly unlikely that anything will happen to you.

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