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Great White Sharks

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Patrick Meehan

Dr. Hurley

Plant Biology

4-28-05

The Great White Shark: Monster of the Ocean

"It's tail swayed slowly from side to side, pushing the hunters body through the

murky water. All signs of motion were non-existent, except for the rhythmic movement

of the water over the five gill slits on either side of it's head. Slowly gaining speed, the

shady figures unmoving eyes fixed on it's target, a lost harbor seal pup. As the distance

between the predator and it's prey grew closer, the jaws of the massive fish drew forward,

exposing nearly eight rows of razor sharp teeth. Strings of it's previous meal hung in rows

from between it's teeth. Sensing danger, the harbor seal frantically tried to find a place to

seek refuge, but it was too late. The jaws of the shark closed around the seal with an

astounding 14,000 pounds of pressure, cutting the seal in half. The Great White shark

claims another victim". (Animal Planet.com)

Any one who's seen the famous movie series "Jaws" may look at the Great White

Shark as a "man killer". Perhaps it's the way that Hollywood uses a mix of fact and

fiction in the movie. This may have frightened many people into fearing the Great White

for it's ferocity. It might have also been the size of the shark in the movie that's kept

thousands of people off the beaches and out of the water. It could also have been have

been the overall storyline: A Great White shark with an eating disorder and a taste for

human flesh. Perhaps that's what was keeping vacationers from grabbing their trousers

and snorkels.

Over all, there have been 1026 attacks on humans by sharks in the last ten years.

Only 294 of these attacks have been linked to Great White sharks. That's roughly the

number of people who drown each year in swimming accidents in the U. S. Of these 294 attacks, less than eighteen percent were fatal. Out of the fifty-three fatal incidents more than seventy percent was attributed to loss of blood. This means that the shark didn't eat the victims. The shark bit the victims and then released them (also known as the taste test). The shark samples the victim by nibbling on an appendage or two often resulting in a severed artery or other major blood vessel. (Natke)

The "sampling of the victim", by the Great White, intrigued scientists considering the size of the shark's brain. The Great Whites brain is about one half the size of a dog's brain. Over seventy percent of the brain is used for tracking prey. The other thirty percent is used for body functions. Studies show that the shark's main purpose is to eat. People think that the shark's main purpose is to kill. This is incorrect; sharks only eat when they are hungry. Impulses from the brain are sent to the jaws and the stomach telling the shark that it is time to hunt for food. (Natke)

Why do sharks not follow a basic attack pattern on a human? In a human attack,

the primary strike is usually the only contact, as though the shark finds us (humans) to be

unpalatable. There is a theory on this as well, involving the differences in our anatomy

and the panpipes (seals, sea lions). We are mostly muscle where the panpipe body has a

great deal of fat. It is theorized that the shark somehow senses this and abandons us as a

potential meal because our bodies are not as energy-rich as the panpipes. Of course, the bite is often bad enough to kill us - or at least, really screw up our day!

The Great White shark has remained unchanged for 250 million years. Its scientific name is Carcharodon carcharias. This is derived from the Greek "carcharos" meaning "ragged" and the Greek, "odon" meaning "tooth". There isn't a defined size range for the Great White but most experts agree that the length of the shark is usually between 12 and 16 feet with the maximum figure being about 19 to 21 feet. (The 21-foot is an actual record from 1948. The largest ever recorded!) If the Great White is that big try to imagine the size of those massive jaws and teeth, Not to mention the enormous power behind those jaws.. These huge eating machines used to be even bigger! The precursor to the Great White was once known as Carcharodon megalodon. The only difference between the Great White and this previous model is size. The Carcharodon megalodon was MASSIVE compared to the modern day Great White. Averaging forty to forty-five feet in length, it is theorized that this giant of the deep could swallow a city bus whole. There are many scientists who theorize that there may still be some of these giants down there... down deep enough where the bodies would never wash up on shore.

The Great Whites teeth are serrated like a bread knife. Averaging about one to two

inches in length and about one-half to one inch in width. These teeth are so ragged and so

sharp, old native spears have been found with these teeth on the end of them. Scientists

think the natives used these spears as saws!

The most mysterious aspect about the Great White is it's life span. No one in

history has recorded the life span of one individual shark. There was

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