Are great white sharks bloodthirsty killers?

687 Views Updated: 19 Aug 2016
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Are great white sharks bloodthirsty killers?

Victims of myth and mankind’s myopia, discover the truth behind the hunting habits of these colossal killers, Great white sharks. 49 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour), the velocity launches both sharks and seal clear of the water in what’s known as a Polaris Attack.

With jaws opening wide, the predator tries to catch its prey but this meal brings a whole new meaning to the term fast food. Seals have agility on their side and will attempt a zig-zag maneuver in a bid for freedom, but death comes quickly this time. 

Rows and rows of serrated teeth bear down on the blubbery flesh, as it’s shaken violently from side to side and, within minutes, the seal’s inanimate body is sliding down the shark’s throat, whole. In that first bite, the great white shark’s sensitive taste buds can assess the energy content of its prey to see if it’s palatable. Fat and blubber are energy-rich food that sharks need to feast on, which has been proven in an experiment where sharks were tempted with carcasses of seals, pigs and sheep. 

The great white attacked all three but rejected the sheep, indicating fat is required to meet the high energy demands of a great white. Too low, and it won’t be worth the effort (and energy) of attacking. When chasing prey, their streamlined bodies and powerful tails propel them through the water with ease, while their fins enable them to have effective control over their movement.

The crescent-shaped caudal fins at the end of a shark’s body are the main propulsive structure, while the pectoral fins (on its sides) are for turning and braking and the infamous dorsal fin, which can be seen poking out the water, is crucial for keeping it upright. It's warmer body temperature sharpens its sight and boosts brain activity. It gives this daytime hunter an advantage while up against prey that is not only clever but also equally adept swimmers. In addition to seals, it also eats dolphins and whales, but smaller juveniles will feast on tuna, seabirds, and even sea turtles. Notice how humans aren’t on the menu? 

Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, we’re far too bony and lacking the essential nutrition a shark needs for a hearty meal and, after a sample bite, it usually spits out its victim. But unfortunately for sharks and the occasional swimmer, a wetsuit-clad human on the surface of the water closely

resembles its normal prey. Add a surfboard to the equation and the silhouette is uncannily like a shark’s favorite dish, particularly when they are in the vicinity of their normal prey. However, once the shark realizes the mistaken identity, it’s usually too late and the victim will have been claimed by blood loss or drowning. 

This man-eating image has largely been blamed on the 1975 movie Jaws, which portrayed them as indiscriminate killers. While a shark attack is a potential danger in marine waters, it’s worth putting this risk into perspective.  Despite what Hollywood would have us believe, we’re far too bony and lacking the essential nutrition a shark needs for a hearty meal.

Though we fear them, we’re not nutritional enough for a shark. Why don't they eat humans? Attacks on humans are extremely rare; in fact, you’re more likely to get hurt on your way to the beach than you are to get bitten by a great white shark. What’s more, it’s even rarer for the attack to be fatal. In 2015, out of the 70 reported shark attacks worldwide, only three were fatal. Our muscle content most certainly will not make a substantial meal for a Great White shark as it requires plenty of energy that only blubber-rich mammals like seals can provide.

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