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GREAT WHITE SHARK ANATOMY & APPEARANCE

Overall Anatomy & Appearance

Silhouette of Great White Shark - Jawshark.com

Coloring - The Great White shark is a dark to light grey color on top and a pale white on it's underbelly. It is easy to distinguish this shark from other large sharks because the colors separate at exactly the center line of the side of the fish. It almosts appears as if the shark has been dipped in white paint to just under it's eye. The white coloring goes away at the rear of the shark at the tail. The tail is the same color as the top of the shark, light to dark grey.

Model of Great White Shark - Jawshark.com

The Head & Nose

The great white shark has a large robust pointed snout. Depending on the shark, the snout is either conical rounding to a point or pyramid shaped coming to a point. If you look at a Great White straight on it almost appears to be smiling at you.

Great White Shark coming in at camera with mouth closed - Jawshark.com

The Mouth & Teeth

At first glance the great white appears to have very small upper teeth while it is swimming. That is because the shark is able to retract its teeth up into it's mouth much like a cat retracts its claws while they are not in use.The Great White shark's mouth also looks small in relation to it's body but this appearance is deceiving. The sharks jaws are capable of extending to open nearly 160 degrees revealing a frightening view of large serrated triangular shaped teeth. When the shark bites it will shake its head side to side and the teeth will act as a saw and tear off large chunks of flesh. The teeth are linked to pressure and tension-sensing nerve cells. This arrangement seems to give their teeth high tactile sensitivity. The upper jaw employs a front row of roughly 16 to 20 teeth while the lower jaw's teeth are smaller but have the same amount. This is a front row average only. The shark has at least 2 to 3 rows of teeth in use at any given time with more teeth being produced and moving into place as the teeth break off and require replacement. Great whites often swallow their own broken off teeth along with chunks of their prey's flesh. This cycle of replacing tooth after tooth is natural for the shark as this insures it has new and super sharp teeth moving into place on a constant basis. Look at the picture below. Notice the top tooth on the right is broken off. If sharks only got two sets (like us humans) of teeth for life they would eventually starve to death once all their teeth had dulled down or broken off. They would be forced to gum their food to death.

Massive Great White Shark breaches surface at camera - Jawshark.com

 

Tail Fins

Great Whites have almost the same size upper and lower lobes on their  tail fins (like most mackerel sharks, but unlike most other sharks which have a larger upper tail fin than lower).

The shape of a Great White Shark's Tail - Jawshark.com

 

Skeleton

The skeleton of the shark is very different from that of bony fishes such as cod; it is made from cartilage, which is very light and flexible, although the cartilage in older sharks can sometimes be partly calcified, making it harder and more bone-like. The shark's jaw is variable and is thought to have evolved from the first gill arch. It is not attached to the cranium and has extra mineral deposits to give it greater strength.

Eyes

Great White Shark eyes are similar to the eyes of other vertebrates, including similar lenses, corneas and retinas, though their eyesight is well adapted to the marine environment with the help of a tissue called tapetum lucidum. This tissue is behind the retina and reflects light back to the retina, thereby increasing visibility in the dark waters. This gives the Great White and other sharks their black eyes which have been described in books and movies as appearing evil. The effectiveness of the tissue varies in sharks, but the Great White is believed to have a stronger nocturnal adaptation of this tissue. Most sharks have eyelids, but they do not blink because the surrounding water cleans their eyes.  This membrane moves to cover the eyes when they bite, and when the shark is being attacked. However, the Great White shark doesn't have this membrane. Instead it rolls it's eyes upwards and back into the socket to protect them from injury when striking prey.

Ears

Great Whites have no visible ears but do have them allowing them to have a sharp sense of hearing and can hear prey many miles away. A small opening on each side of their heads leads directly into the inner ear through a thin channel. They use this sense in conjuction with their eyesight and their electromagnetic senses.

 

Great White Shark Store - Jawshark.com

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