The great white shark boasts of being the apex predator in the marine biome - with its amazing ability to take on anything and everything that comes its way. Killer whale is believed to be the only marine animal that preys on the great white shark, but such instances only qualify for rare occurrences - most often driven by shortage of food.
In a single bite, the great white can rip right through its prey, and take in as much as 30 lbs of flesh. A single bite is enough to cut a seal into two halves. Along with their sharp teeth and strong jaw muscles, the agility of this species and their ability to sense movements also come into play in course of hunting. Studies have revealed that it is the anatomy of the great white which makes it so agile, strong and ferocious, and that's what we will stress on from here.
Great White Shark Anatomy and Physiology
On an average, a male great white shark can grow on to attain a length of 11-13ft. The females in this species - on the other hand, are a bit larger with an average length of 14-16ft. The average weight in this cartilaginous species is believed to range between 1,500-2,400 lbs. The white underside and a gray dorsal area of the great whites show that they resort to counter-shading form of camouflage. This is a unique adaptation in several marine animals wherein the gray dorsal area blends with ocean depths and white underside blends with sunlight thus keeping the animal off the radar of predators and preys alike.
The caudal fin tail of the great white helps it clock unbelievable speeds by facilitating quick acceleration. It has two dorsal fins which add to the hydrodynamics of this species. While the first dorsal fin - which is larger of the two, makes sure that the shark doesn't rollover in course of making its way through the water, the second makes sure that the flow of water over the posterior portion of the shark is smooth. Then there also exist pectoral fins which help the great white maneuver in water, and pelvic fins which help the shark to balance its body.
Jaws and Teeth
It wouldn't be much surprising if the first thing to cross your mind when we talk about the anatomy of the great whites happen to be their jaws. The notoriety that this species has gained over the course of time can be attributed to this very anatomical feature along with the 3000 odd double-sided serrated edged teeth that lie within its mouth. The upper jaw of a great white shark is not fused with the lower jaw as in case of humans, and that makes it possible for this animal to open its mouth wider than one can imagine. The great white grabs its prey by its lower jaw, before protruding its upper jaw and snaps its prey in a flash of lightning.
While the teeth of a great white are sharp enough, the muscles which facilitate the movement of jaw are also very powerful and these anatomical features make it easier for the great white to cut right through a seal as we mentioned before. Their jaws begin developing in the very first month of their life. Their amazing ability to replace a lost tooth within 24 hours is yet another interesting fact about the great white that very few people are aware of.
Armed with light-sensing rods and color-sensitive cones, the eyes of a great white shark have a crucial role to play when it comes to hunting in the dark depths of the oceans. These sensory devices help the species see at a distance of up to 50ft with great ease. Similarly, the scent glands on their snout help them trace chemical scents from a distance of quarter mile. The great white can also track electromagnetic fields - which are produced as a result of muscle contraction during locomotion, with a specialized organ referred to as Ampullae of Lorenzini located on their snout. The fluid-filled ears of this species also work as sensory devices for the great white as any vibration in the water in the vicinity, causes ripples in the fluid in their ears and helps them trace the movement in their surroundings.
As we mentioned earlier, the jaws of a great white shark are specially adapted to allow them swallow a prey which is considerably large in size. Similarly, the pharynx and esophagus of a great white are large enough to ensure that the large chunks of flesh that it swallows travels from its mouth to stomach with ease. Furthermore, the stomach of a shark is divided into cardiac stomach and pyloric stomach, and that's important considering that the species don't just feed on marine animals but also feeds on a range of indigestible items dumped into the ocean.
The pyloric stomach acts as a storage compartment for all such indigestible items that it swallows. The liver - which happens to be the largest organ of the shark's body, doesn't just help the species convert food to energy, but is also believed to help it when it comes to buoyancy. A peculiar feature of the male great white shark anatomy is the presence of a pair of erective claspers - intromittent organs specialized to deliver sperm during mating. In great whites, the claspers are located between the pelvic fins.
All these anatomical features of a great white shark don't just help it survive, but also makes it one of the most dreaded creature on the planet. If it were not for the sharp serrated teeth and powerful jaws - which add to its bite force, or the caudal fins and hydrodynamic body shape - which help it accelerate, the great white wouldn't have been an agile hunter that it is considered to be.