Thursday, May 31, 2007

A few facts about great white sharks

When a great white shark is born, along with up to a dozen siblings, it immediately swims away from its mother. Baby sharks are on their own right from the start, and their mother may see them only as prey. At birth the baby shark is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long already; as it grows it may reach a length three times that.

The pup (which is what a baby shark is called) will live its life at the top of the ocean’s food chain. As the largest predatory fish in the ocean, great white sharks are the top predators of the sea. But before it grows larger, the pup must avoid predators bigger than it is—including other great white sharks. Many baby sharks do not survive their first year. Young great white sharks eat fish (including other sharks) and rays.

As it grows, the shark’s favorite prey becomes sea mammals, especially sea lions and seals.Sharks count on the element of surprise as they hunt. When they see a seal at the surface of the water, sharks will often position themselves underneath the seal. Then they swim upward at a fast sprint, bursting out of the water in a leap called a breach, and falling back into the water with the seal in their mouths.

Sharks don’t chew their food; they rip off chunks of meat and swallow them whole. After eating a seal or a sea lion the great white shark can last a month or two without another big meal. Female great white sharks usually bear their first young when they are 12 to 14 years old. And if the pups survive their youth, they, too, become predators at the top of the food chain.


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