How long do they live? Great white sharks were long believed to only live 30 – 40 years, but new research with radiocarbon bomb dating indicates that they can live 73 years and likely longer [1]. We’re dealing with studies on animals that were killed, so how long would that animal have lived? Radiocarbon bomb dating may change the lifespan estimates for many species.

Where are they found? You can find Great white sharks all over the ocean and even in some brackish waters from time to time [2]. See Figure 1.

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Figure 1. The range of the Great white shark. It looks like they avoid really cold water. I don’t blame them, look at what happens to the Baleen whale in arctic waters. No one likes a harpoon to the face.

What do they eat? The Jaws movies were a bit off, Great white sharks rarely attack to eat humans. They do, however, shorten the lifespans of many fish, seals, and anything that they find tasty.

What do they look like? Friendly. Great white sharks can reach almost 20 feet in length and weigh over 2,000 pounds and possibly up to 5,000 pounds [3]. See figures 2,3, and 4.

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Figure 2. See how friendly it looks?

How do they reproduce? Great white sharks are ovoviviparous, which means eggs form and hatch within the womb and she gives live birth to around 10 live pups [2]. Males and females may reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age [3], but this is debated since there’s very little research regarding sexual reproduction in these sharks. There’s also no existing reproductive senescence information that I could find.

How do scientists know how old they are? Radiocarbon bomb dating of vertebrae  [1].

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Figure 3. A great white shark just hanging out with a bunch of fish.

So what are we lacking? The ability to distinguish fiction from non fiction. Thanks Jaws movies. Although the mitochondrial genome of Carcharodon carcharias is reported on the NCBI website, there’s no nuclear genome data uploaded. Sexual maturity and senescence research is also needed. Strangely, we know a lot about how it eats and looks, but there’s not much else known (that I can find).

Conservation status: Thanks to negative PR, the Great white shark is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Great white sharks are often caught and discarded as by-catch by commercial fisheries.

Please let me know if you can contribute information to how these beautiful creatures achieve long life or if you just really like sharks and can contribute some information that is lacking here.

  1. Hamady LL, Natanson LJ, Skomal GB, Thorrold SR (2014) Vertebral Bomb Radiocarbon Suggests Extreme Longevity in White Sharks. PLoS ONE 9(1): e84006. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084006
  2. Fishbase.org. Carcharodon carcharias. http://www.fishbase.org/summary/751 Accessed 10/13/2016.
  3. Animal Diversity.org. Great White Shark.  http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Carcharodon_carcharias/#reproduction Accessed 10/13/2016.