Sleeping Monsters: Do Great White Sharks Sleep?

do great white sharks sleep

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The Great White Sharks is an Apex Predator of the ocean, they are at the top of their food chain and have no natural predators.

They are the most fierce species of shark, with the most attacks on humans coming from the Great White Shark.

A perfectly adapted hunter that is powerful, aggressive, and a formidable hunter.

But with all this hunting going on, do great white sharks sleep?

Well, new research suggests that whilst great white sharks are not actively seeking out prey, they may be snoozing to recharge their batteries.

Let’s take a closer look…

Do Great White Sharks Actually Sleep?

The sleep patterns of sharks have puzzled scientists for years. Most species of shark need to remain in constant motion for water to pass over their gills, or else they will suffocate.

Sharks extract oxygen from the water through their gills, so they need to keep moving to breathe. This is called “Ram Ventilation”.

To work around this, some species of sharks have developed spiracles, which are small, nostril-type openings that are behind the shark’s eye, allowing them to pump water through their gills whilst not moving.

But the great white shark’s spiracles became so small to non-existent during the process of divergence from ancient shark to the modern white shark.

For this reason, white sharks are considered obligate ram ventilators, which means they must stay on the move in order to survive.

So do great white sharks actually sleep? Yes, they do. Just a little different from many other species of shark.

How Do Great White Sharks Sleep?

Very few sharks have actually been witnessed sleeping, which is what adds to the mystery of how the great white is getting some shut-eye.

New footage has emerged of scientists that were using a robotic submersible to track a female white shark off the coast of Guadalupe Island.

It is believed that this is the first time a great white shark has been recorded in a sleep-like state.

As the night closed in, the shark altered its position to swim close to the shore in shallow waters.

The specific route the shark took, whilst at night was straight into a strong, Oxygen-rich current that was flowing at around 2mph.

The shark has its mouth wide open whilst doing so, and whilst swimming against the current, the shark seemed to be in a hypnotic/sleep-like state.

Researchers believe that this is what it looks like when a great white shark sleeps.

You can check the video out here.

How Long Do Great White Sharks Sleep?

Great white sharks do not sleep like other animals. They seem to take naps, sometimes for as little as 30 minutes and sometimes for hours.

This allows the shark to slow down and save energy for their hunting during the day, whilst still keeping an eye on their surroundings every once in a while.

Great white sharks do not have eyelids, which means their eyes stay perpetually open. This allows them to stay in a deep state of rest, whilst still monitoring what is going on around them.

During these rest periods, the shark is allowing the current to pass through its gills whilst it expends as little energy as possible.

This ensures that it still receives Oxygen from the current and can enter this sleep state.

How Do You Know If A Great White Shark Is Sleeping?

Although very little is known about the great white sharks’ sleeping patterns, one way to have a good idea if a white shark is sleeping is to identify if they are facing a current.

As great white sharks do not have spiracles like some other species, they need to keep moving whilst they rest or they will suffocate.

This means that they need to be either on the move to breathe, or facing a current so that water is flowing through their gills.

This is a key sign in identifying whether a white shark is sleeping or not.

As seen in the footage above, the shark is gliding towards the current, using very little energy whilst the water flows through its gills.

As a whole, it’s tricky to identify whether a great white is sleeping or not as they do not have eyelids, meaning it can look like they are awake even whilst sleeping.

Do Great White Sharks Sleep At Night?

During the day, great white sharks typically swim deep to wait for prey to swim above so they can strike and make a catch.

This is when white sharks are most active and alert, but when it comes to the nighttime, white sharks’ behavior is much different.

At night, the shark hugs the shoreline and stays very close to the bottom. Whilst having their mouths open, and gently gliding through the current they enter a sleep-like state.

It makes sense that white sharks would try to get some sleep during the night, as their prey will also likely be sleeping.

This gives the shark a perfect opportunity to recharge its batteries ready for the day ahead tomorrow.

Sleeping at night also helps the shark stay hidden, and although they are apex predators that rule the oceans, they likely prefer sleeping in the darkness to stay out of sight.

Final Thoughts

So, do great white sharks sleep? Yes, according to new research they do.

Sharks are apex predators that expend a lot of energy throughout the day traveling, feeding, and hunting down prey.

At some point, they need to rest and recharge if they want to stay at the top of their game. The fascinating new footage out of Guadalupe Island appears to show a shark in a sleep-like state.

It’s really a fascinating piece of footage and one that shows the vulnerable side of this formidable predator.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and learn more about the great white shark’s sleeping pattern.

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