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the web of life in southern Africa

Carcharodon carcharias (Great white shark)

(Linnaeus, 1758)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Lamniformes > Lamnidae

Carcharodon carcharias (Great white shark) [Illustration by Ann Hecht ]


A huge, spindle-shaped shark with small conspicuous black eyes, blunt conical snout, and large, triangular, saw-edged teeth. Colour lead grey to brown or black above, lighter on sides, abruptly white below, a black spot at rear pectoral base.


To 7.1 m TL.


Almost entire coast from Namibia to Natal; all temperate and tropical seas.


Coastal and offshore, surfline and shallow bays to offshore islands, surface to 1280 m depth.


An active, swift, powerful shark that can leap out of the water. Eats bony fish, sharks and rays, seals, dolphins and porpoises, sea birds, carrion, squid, octopi, and crabs. Bears 7 to 9 young.

Human Impact

A potentially dangerous species that infrequently attacks divers, swimmers, surfers, and boats; often investigates divers and boats without attacking. Caught by big-game anglers, by the Natal shark nets, and by lineboats for its jaws.

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale