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There aren’t many facts about the great white shark that haven’t already been relayed over and over again. This predator of the seas does complete justice to the fear and awe associated with sharks. Reigning over nearly all the coastal waters on earth, the great white preys on an enormous variety of fish and seabirds, while paying obeisance to only one species of marine life – the killer whale or orca. Spielberg officially named the great white shark a ‘ferocious man-eater’ in the 1975 blockbuster – ‘Jaws’.
Scene from Jaws movie
However, there is more to this marine predator than meets the eye (or the imagination, to be more appropriate). While it does enjoy a rather extensive menu when it comes to the species it consumes, recent research seems to suggest that it isn’t a natural trait of the great white to feed upon humans. Instead, the majority of the unprovoked attacks recorded across the globe, were a ‘sampling’ exercise of sorts, and only proved that these sharks decided against adding humans to the array of marine wanderers they prey on.
As more and more facts about the great white shark are unearthed, one cannot help but marvel at the design that renders it almost invincible. Having evolved over 16 million years ago and sharing family ties with C. megalodon (a prehistoric shark), the great white gets its name from its white underbelly; its dorsal region is slate grey, acting as a camouflage against the backdrop of the ocean floor. A Gigantic creature, its torpedo shaped body and immensely powerful tail ensures that it guides its 5000 pound mass easily at 15 miles an hour.
But that is not all. While the great white does have an exceptionally powerful sense of smell, what makes it unique is its ability to detect movements in electromagnetic fields. Every time a potential prey moves – even the tiniest bit – it sets the predator on its trail. To illustrate this point further, the great white can sense fluctuations as close to one billionth of a volt – meaning that even if a human heart beats close enough, it shall be found.
Over the years of its evolution, the great white has gone on to add more and more weapons to its impressive armoury. 300 serrated teeth, laid out in multiple rows, replacing each other as needed, are the primary tools of the trade. Also significant is the shark’s body temperature which is slightly warmer than the ocean water, enabling it to hunt the more slippery and agile prey – the sea lion for instance. This feature also helps in ‘breaching’ – an act in which it completely leaves the water to attack its prey. In fact, the great white shark has a habit of regularly lifting its head to glimpse the action above the surface of the water. This is because it can smell better above the water surface than below it.
The great white shark has earned itself a formidable reputation, but the fact remains that it appears on the list on endangered species today. It may be a wise move to admire this predator of the seas for the design marvel that it is, and attribute the danger associated with it to the simple thought that perhaps the ocean ought to be left as it is.