Are Great White Sharks Man Eaters?

The age old question… are great white sharks man eaters? Should you be worried about the danger of getting in the water with our great white sharks at Guadalupe Island?  Well, great whites are bloody big apex predators with a very impressive mouth of full of rows of sharp teeth.  Heck yes, they are dangerous, and we have to be very careful.   But we don’t think great whites are man eaters and research by leading shark scientists like Dr. Klimley tends to back this up…

great white shark

A Great Whites Meal of Choice

White sharks seem to love prey such as fat juicy elephant seals, sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals, whale carcasses and such.  On the other hand, great whites have been observed “testing” or “tasting” birds, sea otters, humans and sheep and rejecting the prey.  And yes!  Sheep.  Skinned sheep in vast slicks of oil and blood were used as decoys at the Farallon Islands off San Francisco by scientists.  A skinned sheep looks very much like a sea lion, but no white shark would do anything more than take a tentative test bite and then back away and ignore the sheep.  Another example of an unresisting animal that was not consumed by a white shark was observed at the Farallons on September 6th, 1998, when a pelican was seized by a white shark in a thunderous splash. The pelican was disabled and unable to resist further attack and despite floating motionless on the surface, the shark swam past it several times and never did take a bite.

Aside from observations of numerous attacks on seals and sea lions, these same scientists observed a white shark attack on a dead whale off San Francisco…

“Sweeping its tail back and forth, the shark propelled itself forward onto the carcass of the whale with its jaws wide open.  The shark then lowered its upper jaw, penetrating the fatty outer blubber of the whale with its teeth.  The shark then swung its tail and bent its rear body backward, the resistance of the water enabling the shark to draw its jaw down the body of the whale… moving only the outer fatty layer.”  (Klimley.  The Secret Life of Sharks).

are great white sharks man eaters

Did You Know…

The energy content of fat is 8.0 kilocalories per gram, while the energy value of protein of muscle is 3.9 to 4.5 kilocalories per gram.  It seems that sharks have a preference for fatty prey, the surplus energy of which helps them keep warm.  The touch of great whites has been observed as “warm in contrast to the cold water” in which they are swimming and quantified as 75F body temp in mid 50F water. Clusters of warm blood vessels in the shark warm the brain and musculature and increase the transfer of oxygen to the tissues of the white shark, allowing these awesome and amazing apex predators to inhabit a cold water niche all of their own in the shark kingdom.


Are Great White Sharks Man Eaters?

Are great white sharks man eaters?   We think not.   A healthy adult white shark deliberately chooses prey with a lot more fat than a human.  Accidents do happen and we will continue to abide by the sensible and very strict park regulations that our guests stay inside our cages…

Now that we’ve settled the score on whether great white sharks are man eaters (they’re not), get in touch to learn more about our guadalupe great white expeditions.

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