Biggest Carnivorous Fish: Great White Shark
Great white sharks are still a mystery, as scientists are still trying to unravel the lifestyle of these denizens of the deep. They are solitary creatures roaming the ocean in constant search of food. Scientists are still unsure how to tell the age of a great white shark or how long they live, how often and where they breed, and how quickly they grow.
What scientists have been able to study in great whites is their predatory and feeding behavior. In the Farallon Islands, off the coast of California, scientists are videotaping and documenting attacks on pinnipeds (seals and sea lions - the sharks' favorite prey) to understand how these awesome killing machines operate. By studying shark attack behavior, scientists hope to understand and predict how and when a great white will attack. People who "use" the ocean can use this information to protect themselves from being attacked by a great white shark.
Expert Killing Machines
Great white sharks have a number of adaptations (behaviors and anatomical features) that make them such efficient killers:
Scientists who study the Great White Shark have found that when attacking their prey, the strategy of the great white is usually to strike from below in one powerful blow (some human shark attack victims have likened the experience to being hit by a car), inflicting a lethal bite to head or trunk of its victim. The shark then swims away a short distance to let its victim bleed to death so that it will not have to struggle with its meal. This brief respite after the initial chomping is what allows many human victims (but not all) to escape being eaten alive by the great white predator.
Other Great Sharks
The largest great white on record measured 21 feet long. Some claim a 23 footer was caught in the Mediterranean, but that report has not been authenticated. Since great whites are such elusive and mysterious creatures, it's entirely possible there may be even bigger ones out there we have yet to meet.
Paleontologists have found the fossilized jaws of an ancient ocean predator that is an ancestor of the great white, called Charcharodon megalodon (picture of jaws at left). The size of the jaws indicate the size of the creature may have been as large as 50 feet long! Some scientists argue that it's possible these monsters still exist in the ocean deeps, that we just haven't found them yet.
Read about the world's deadliest creature!
There are other large species of living sharks that have reputations for ferocity that rival the great white. The bull shark, white tip reef sharks, blue sharks, tiger sharks, seven gill sharks, and some monsters of the deep that can get up to 20 feet long - sleeper sharks and primitive six gill sharks. These species of sharks may rival the ferocity of the great white, but none of them have been found to grow as large. Carcharodon carcharias holds the world record for largest carnivorous fish, but there are even bigger ocean predators than the Great White roaming the ocean.
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