Facts About The Oceans Greatest Predator
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It has taken 300 million years of evolution to create such a formidable predator as the shark, and the notorious Great White Shark is the most remarkable of all.
Great White sharks are peculiar in the shark world. They are warm-blooded, with a metabolism closer to birds and mammals than to fish. They are able to regulate their body temperature up to 17 degrees C higher than the surrounding water temperature and this fact alone has helped them become top predators in the cooler seas of the Earth.
There is so little basic information known about the species. Even the length of female pregnancy remains unclear, but it appears that female Great Whites do not give birth every year and have relatively small litters of pups. The young feed on fish and other smaller sharks graduating to the larger fast-food of seals, dolphins, and whales as well as feeding on carcasses, but it’s not until they are around ten years old that they can handle the size and agility of a seal for lunch.
Perhaps the most fearsome behavioral trait is how the shark attacks; a hurtling 6m torpedo moving at around 70km an hour, delivering a single and usually fatal bite. Although most unlucky prey bleeds to death if not quickly devoured, many seals’ scars testify that plenty does escape. Although fortunately for seals they have so much fat, a shark would eat just half of one to keep it going for a month or more. Their consumption at seal colonies, therefore, is fairly small.
These animals have some of the acutest senses in the animal kingdom. They can pick up struggling prey or fish spawning from over a mile away and detect a drop of blood in the water up to half a mile away. They have excellent color eyesight both above and below water with structures similar to cat’s eyes for dim light conditions. They are often spotted “spy-hopping” to investigate conditions and prey above the water. By far the most impressive sensory system is the “Ampullae of Lorenzini”. These jelly-filled pits in the snouts detect electrical fields such as contracting muscles and heartbeats. They can detect a change of the hundredth millionth of a volt per centimeter. All this in an integrated system to allow the shark to be, unarguably, one of the most efficient predators the world has ever seen.
The Great White Shark is a critically important predator in our oceans, keeping an ecological balance as old as the Earth. By consuming dead, dying, or infirm animals, removing decaying matter, and keeping other populations in check their role is vital to the health of our oceans.