15 Great White Shark Facts That Will Shatter Your Assumptions

With its razor sharp teeth, pitch black eyes, and 2,000-pound body, the great white shark isn’t exactly man’s best friend. And no matter how often — and awfully — the creature is portrayed in film and literature, great white shark facts are much more interesting than fiction:

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Great White Shark Facts

Elias Levy/FlickrGreat white sharks are actually conflict-avoidant — at least with one another. When there isn't enough food to go around, sharks swim past each other, slapping the surface of the water with their tails. Whoever slaps the water the most and hardest gets the meal.

Great White Shark Mouth

Travelbag Ltd./FlickrGreat white sharks' ancestry dates back more than 400 million years, which makes them much older than even the dinosaurs.

Underwater Shark

Global_Pics/Getty ImagesThe largest great white shark ever recorded was a 20-foot-long, 50 year-old nicknamed Deep Blue. She was filmed off Mexico's Guadalupe Island in 2013.

Out Of Water Shark

Elizabeth Hoffmann/Getty ImagesNot too much is known about the mating habits of great white sharks. What is known is that after mating the female develops several eggs which hatch in her womb. There, newly-hatched shark pups feed on unfertilized eggs.

Great White Shark Breech

Carl De Souza/Getty Images Great whites have such acute senses that they can smell one drop of blood in 100 liters of water, or a seal colony up to two miles away. They can even detect another animal's electromagnetic field.

Great White Shark Depth Record(dorsalfinedotcom)

George Probst/FlickrWhile great white sharks are loners, there is a degree of social hierarchy. Females often dominate males. Sometimes sharks will bite each other as a show of strength, but cannibalism is rare.

Jump Great White Shark Food

USO/Getty ImagesGreat white sharks rarely attack humans, even when one is swimming nearby. The human blood usually only spills when sharks "test-bite": bite something to see if it's food. When the shark realizes it is tasting human flesh, it usually swims away, which is why most attacks aren't fatal.

Great White Fullbody

Elias Levy/FlickrGreat whites prefer warm, salty water, typically residing in Australia, South Africa, California and the northeastern United States. Still, they have been known to dive to chilly depths of 820 feet.

Great White Shark Head

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images Believe it or not, the great white's biggest threat is human interaction. Sharks are hunted for their fins and teeth, and are often the victims of bycatch -- when they're caught in the nets of commercial fishermen.

Great White Shark Blue

Elias Levy/FlickrThe great white shark's tongue is absolutely worthless. Called the basihyal, the tough piece of cartilage sits on the floor of the shark's mouth, and usually doesn't move.

Great White Shark Seal

Carl De Souza/Getty Images The great white shark is an exemplar of industrious efficiency: it can eat a sea lion whole, after which point it doesn't need to eat again for another three months.

Teeth Bite Shark

Elizabeth Hoffmann/Getty ImagesThe only animal known to prey on great white sharks is the orca whale. The orca flips the shark on its back, rendering it immobile and thus defenseless. Last year, tourists in Australia witnessed a pod of orcas circle a lone great white and kill him with continuous body slams.

Great White Shark Teeth

Wikimedia Commons Sharks don't chew. Instead, they use their serrated teeth to shred their prey into tiny pieces. And about those teeth: Great whites have 300 at a time, and loose about 1000 over a lifetime. When they loose teeth, a new row slides into place, like a conveyor belt for their mouths.

Great White Face Flickr

Discovery Channel/FlickrThe great white shark typically weighs anywhere from 1,500 to 2,400 pounds -- the liver alone can take up about 24 percent of that figure. Despite their weight, their torpedo-shaped bodies and powerful tails propel them through the water at 15 miles per hour.

Great White Shark Eating

Lwp Kommunikáció/Flickr Great whites need to be left in the wild. In January 2016, Japan's Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium tried to keep a great white shark in captivity. The shark became disoriented, banging into the walls of his enclosure. He refused to eat and died just three days later.

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What We Loved This Week, May 22 – 28

Surprisingly beautiful insect photography, Japan’s gorgeously bizarre costumery, charming vintage summer photos, Yellowstone’s rainbow hot spring, and Hong Kong’s tiny cage homes.

Rainbow Hot Spring Aerial

Charles O’Rear/Corbis via Smithsonian

Gorgeous Photos Of Yellowstone’s Famous Rainbow Hot Spring

Rainbow Hot Spring

Solent News/Splash News/Corbis via Smithsonian

Ferdinand Hayden, the man who named Yellowstone’s incredible Grand Prismatic Spring (“Rainbow Hot Springs”) once wrote:

Nothing ever conceived by human art could equal the peculiar vividness and delicacy of color of these remarkable prismatic springs. Life becomes a privilege and a blessing after one has seen and thoroughly felt these incomparable types of nature’s cunning skill.

And what exactly accounts for nature’s cunning skill; what makes these springs so colorful? Massive amounts of several kinds of heat-loving bacteria that interact with sunlight in various ways.

See and learn more at Smithsonian.

Hot Spring Yellowstone

JIM URQUHART/Reuters/Corbis via Smithsonian

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