FOUNDATION > Great White Shark > GWS Facts

Great White Shark Facts

How many teeth do great white sharks have?
Great whites have 24-26 teeth positions in their top jaw and 22-24 positions in their lower jaw, making 48-50 different teeth positions. Each tooth position is also arranged in rows of 5-7 teeth like a conveyer belt and when a tooth is lost, the tooth from the next row moves forward to replace it. At any time a white shark will have about 300 teeth in various stages of development within its jaw. Sharks constantly lose and replace teeth in this way throughout their life.

Most of these developing rows of teeth are not exposed. In the upper jaw, normally there is only one functional row showing through the gum, and in the lower jaw, especially in the centre front positions, sometimes 2 or even 3 rows are exposed. This means that at any one time a great white can make a bite with up to about 80 teeth!


How big do great whites get?
Great whites average 12-16 feet long (3.7-4.9 m) long and, when mature, females are generally larger than males. There are many accounts of this species reaching sizes of over 30ft, but none of these have been proven. The biggest white shark accurately measured was a 6.1m long female, caught in 1988 at Prince Edward Island in the North Atlantic off Canada.

In 1987, fisherman estimated a shark caught at Kangaroo Island, South Australia to be about 6.4m (22 to 23 ft) and, although it was never accurately measured, its jaw, tooth and fin size suggest this estimation could be true. Another reputably 6.4m individual was caught off Cuba in May 1945, but this measurement has also been called into question.


What do great white sharks eat?
Adult white sharks prey on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, dolphins and they also scavenge on dead whales. They are also known to eat large fish such as tuna and even other shark and ray species. Younger sharks eat mostly fish and do not prey on marine mammals until they grow bigger. 


Does the white shark have any enemies?
The white shark is at the top of the food chain so there is nothing else in the ocean that eats it. Although they rarely come in to contact, larger killer whales (Orcas) have been known to attack and kill smaller great whites, but other than that their only threat is man.

Great whites are listed as a Threatened Species as a result of them being recognized as a slow breeding species that has suffered a population decline from many decades of accidental capture in commercial fisheries and also by sports fisherman and trophy hunters. High prices can be obtained from the sale of their teeth and jaws. Luckily for the white shark, it is now a protected species in its major population strongholds of Australia, South Africa and California.