The Great White Shark is notorious for its terrifying appearance. They are the largest predatory fish on the planet and are at the very top of the food chain in the ocean.
They are built for killing, and are undoubtedly one of the most successful predators of all time. However, the Great White is a misunderstood animal.
With well-known blockbuster films such as “Jaws” striking fear into all that have watched it, the Great White has become a nightmarish animal with over 51% of the American public admitting they are terrified of them.
In this post, we’re going to answer a question we find many of our readers asking: Are great white sharks dangerous?
In a nutshell, they are dangerous, but not as dangerous as you may think. Certainly not as dangerous as the likes of Jaws portrays them.
Let’s get into it…
Are Great White Sharks Actually Dangerous?
I think it goes without saying that Great White sharks are dangerous. It’s hard to deny these animals as dangerous when they are perfectly built killing machines.
You certainly wouldn’t want to get in the water with one.
They are the dominant species of the ocean, and sadly most shark attacks do actually come from the Great White Shark.
The Florida Museum Of Natural History wanted to find out what species of shark attacked the most humans and created a list dating all the way back to 1580.
According to the list, there have been 27 fatal attacks from Bull Sharks, and 80 from Great White Sharks.
Why Are Great White Sharks Dangerous?
Great White Sharks are Apex Predators, which means they have no natural predators in the ocean and can roam freely without the threat of being attacked.
These sharks are some of the largest predators on the planet, with an average weight of 1400 lbs (750kg) they have an incredible force behind them that is built from pure muscle.
You may think the Great White Shark is sluggish, due to weighing so much. But they have a top speed of 60km/h which allows them to quickly burst out of the ocean and catch their prey.
White Sharks mainly feed on seals, rays, and other marine mammals. They are ambush predators which means they use the element of surprise to sneak up underneath their prey and attack quickly.
Take a look at this video which demonstrates exactly how Great Whites ambush their prey.
The Great White Shark also has one of the most powerful bite forces of any known animal.
The average White Shark has a bite force of 0.3 tonnes, but the biggest sharks have a force of 1.8 tonnes.
Great White sharks also have an impressive battery of senses, with their sense of smell being the most famous of them all.
They can detect specific chemicals such as blood proteins in incredibly small concentrations, giving them a sense of smell that is unrivaled in the oceans.
Their sense of smell is so strong they could possibly detect a concentration of 1 part in 10 billion, which is the equivalent of five drops of blood in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
This means they can detect wounded prey from as far as 0.5/km or 1/3 of a mile away, allowing them to get to the scene quickly.
They also have an amazing sense of hearing, they can hear the low-frequency pulses that are caused by water vibrations that are made from fish or marine mammals, at great distances too.
Sometimes these sharks can hear the movement of prey over a mile away. Eyesight is also a Great White Sharks strong suit, they can likely see as well underwater as we can on the surface.
With all of these attributes combined, no animal is safe around a Great White, and that includes humans.
That said, the good news is that we are not particularly appetizing to a Great White as we offer very little meat and a lot of kicking and screaming.
Are Great White Sharks Aggressive?
Great White Sharks are aggressive animals. They strike from below in an ambush style with an immense amount of power behind them to swiftly kill their prey.
Great White Sharks are actually not aggressive toward humans. They are incredibly intelligent animals that are well aware that we are off the menu.
These sharks are incredibly large and dangerous, but they are not as aggressive as some other species of shark.
The Bull Shark is well known for its aggressiveness, and given that they often live near coastal areas and have lots of encounters with humans, attacks are frequent.
Sharks are wild animals after all, and even though we are not on their menu, there is always a risk involved with all sharks.
Will Great White Sharks Attack Humans?
Although the Great White Shark is clearly dangerous and could make quick work out of a human if they wanted to, why is the number of fatal shark attacks by Great Whites minimal?
Almost every animal that is possible of killing a human kills more than White Sharks do. This includes Lions, Tigers, Wolves, Snakes, Elephants, Dogs and the list goes on.
There is more chance of drowning or being hit by lightning than being bitten by a shark. But why is that?
Well, one reason could be that we’re not exactly a great meal for a Great White Shark. We’re filled with bones and offer very little meat compared to that of a seal that has a thick layer of blubber.
Not only that, but the shark would likely suffer digestion issues from regularly eating humans.
Many scientists now believe that Great White Sharks are intelligent creatures and not just the mindless killers that they are often portrayed as.
There have been many examples of divers swimming with Great Whites and having amazing encounters with them, witnessing their softer side and the sharks interacting and greeting one another.
Why Do Great White Sharks Attack Humans?
For years, it was believed that Great White Sharks attacked humans because they misidentified them and presumed they were seals or other prey.
However, their incredible senses don’t support this idea. Not only that, but the attack style on humans is totally different from how Great Whites attack seals.
When launching an attack on a seal, Great Whites will typically launch themselves upwards from the deep and dive up to 3 meters out of the water, but this doesn’t happen when humans are attacked.
In most human attacks, Great White takes a much more relaxed approach and casually swims up, takes a bite or two, and then swims off again.
New research suggests that these bites are the result of the shark’s curiosity and not an actual attack.
Sharks are incredibly curious animals and given that they don’t have limbs like we humans do.
The only thing they can use to get a feel of something in their mouth, which just so happens to be filled with large, sharp teeth.
This curiosity is what makes Great White Sharks dangerous to humans, and not their man-eating, terrifying blood-lust as the media and some films portray.
Another reason Great White Sharks may bite humans is that like many other creatures, they are territorial and competitive.
In areas where a lot of Great Whites congregate, such as around a whale carcass, a hierarchy needs to be established to know who has feeding rights and in what order.
Humans that sometimes invade their habitats may be looked at as competition, especially when around large schools or fish or carcasses.
In some rare cases, humans may suffer a bite because of this, but it’s not a bite to kill and instead a warning.
Even in the cases of fatality, it’s often due to loss of blood and not because of the bite itself.
So, are Great White Sharks dangerous? Absolutely, without question.
These Apex Predators dominate the ocean and are some of the most powerful animals on the planet. However, they are not the man-eating, dumb animals that they are sometimes made out to be.
Instead, they are smart, calculated sharks that use their amazing senses to locate prey from miles away.
All wild animals should be taken with care and caution as they can be unpredictable at times, however, if you’re willing to look past what is often portrayed about these sharks then you’ll find a fascinating animal.
They have some amazing abilities such as regeneration. Great Whites can survive damage and attacks that many animals could not.
They can often be fully recovered from serious wounds and damage within a couple of weeks, which is something that we don’t see very often.
Great White Sharks are amazing animals, they deserve respect and should not be feared as much as they are in today’s society.
Hopefully, this post has been insightful and you’ve learned a thing or two about Great White Sharks in this post.
If you have enjoyed it, feel free to stick around and learn more about Sharks and other marine wildlife.
Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years. I’ve spent over a decade in the marine wildlife industry and spent years out in the field conducting research. In today’s modern world, an online blog is the best place for me to share my findings and reach as many people as possible to help educate and inspire others. Enjoy your time here and you’re welcome back anytime!