White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus 1758)

Other Names: Great White Shark, White Death, White Pointer

A White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Source: sharkdiver.com / Wikimedia Commons. License: Public Domain


A large powerful shark with a very high first dorsal fin, a crescent-shaped tail, large triangular serrate teeth, and minute anal and second dorsal fins. Blue-grey to greyish-brown above, abruptly changing to a white underside.

White Sharks are warm-blooded. They have a special heat-exchange circulatory system that allows them to maintain body temperatures up to 14C higher than the surrounding seawater. Adults usually feed on seals, penguins, fishes and seabirds, and this dangerous apex predator is responsible for many fatal attacks on humans. 

White Sharks are protected in all Australian waters, including territorial waters - and in many other parts of the world.

Video of White Sharks at Isla Guadalupe

Video of free-diving with White Sharks

Video of tagging a juvenile white shark with an internal acoustic tag at Port Stephens, New South Wales.

See what's inside a White Shark that died after being caught in a net off South Africa on The Evolution Documentary YouTube Channel Inside Nature's Giants 5/18 Great White Shark

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Carcharodon carcharias in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2019, http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1846

White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus 1758)

More Info


Occurs worldwide, mostly in temperate waters, but also ventures into tropical and subtropical waters. In Australia, White Sharks are known from about Yeppoon on the Queensland coast (and even further north in the Coral Sea), around southern Australia to about Onslow in north-western Western Australia. The species also occurs in at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea.

White sharks are found from inshore waters around rocky reefs, surf beaches and shallow coastal bays, to waters on the outer continental shelf and slope. Although they most commonly live in depths above 100 m, both juveniles and adults are known to dive to at least 1000 m.

Individuals may also undertake long open ocean journeys, including crossing the Indian Ocean, swimming coast-to-coast from South Africa to Australia and back. 

Research indicates that at the global scale, three distinct geographical White Shark clades (Andreotti et al. 2015). In Australia, there appear to be two White Shark populations - an eastern and a western population. Tagging studies indicate that White Sharks in the eastern population may breed in Bass Strait, and that Corner Inlet, (Victoria) and the Port Stephens region (New South Wales) are important nursery areas for juveniles.


Vertebrae: 172-187, (precaudal 100-108); Jaw teeth (upper) 13:13; Jaw teeth (lower) 12:12


To a maximum length of at least 6.4 metres.


Greyish to greyish-brown above, white below, with a distinct separation between the dark and light pigment.


Voracious carnivores. Adult White sharks are opportunistic feeders, and prey on a range of vertebrates. Prey items include bottom-dwelling and schooling fishes, large species including crustaceans, cephalopod molluscs; broadbill swordfish and bluefin tuna, sharks, rays and chimaeras; turtles; occasionally sea birds such as cormorants and penguins; seals, sea lions, and small whales. They also feed on dead baleen whales.

Malcolm et al. (2001) reported that the smallest white shark known from Australian waters to contain seal remains was a 2.7m individual. However, the stomach of a 2.4 m juvenile male caught off Lakes Entrance, Victoria, contained a seal skull and several bony fishes.

White sharks also feed on sea birds, turtles and ocean sunfish (Mola), and both juveniles and adults scavenge on floating whale carcasses. Bruce & Stevens (2004) report that white sharks are particularly active around whale strandings, presumably because they can smell whale oil and rotting flesh in the water.


White sharks exhibit viviparous (live bearers) and oophagous reproduction (embryos feed on developing eggs in the uterus).

Life history characteristics:
Size at maturity - female 4.5-5.2 m, male 3.5-4.10 m; Size at birth - 109-165 cm;
Sexual maturity - 10-12 years, perhaps 15 years; Maximum size - at least 6.4 m; Longevity - ≥23-36 years; Gestation period - 11 months; Reproduces every 2-3 years; Litter size at birth - 1-2 pups.


White Sharks are protected in Australia, including in all state and territorial waters.


CITES Listed

IUCN Red List: Vulnerable

EPBC Act: Listed as Vulnerable and Migratory under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

New South Wales: Listed as Vulnerable under Section 5, Part 1, Fisheries Management Act 1994.

Queensland: Protected under Schedule 78 (1), Fisheries Act 1994.

South Australia: Protected under Schedule 42, Fisheries Act 1982.

Tasmania: Protected under Schedule 135(2), Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, Section 135(2), Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995 and declared vulnerable under the Fisheries (General and Fees) Regulations 1996.

Victoria: Protected under Schedule 71, Fisheries Act 1995.

Western Australia: Listed as rare or likely to become extinct under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and protected under Schedule 46 of the Fisheries Resources Management Act 1994. In response to a number of shark attacks in WA, in December 2013, the Western Australian Government announced a number of measures to combat shark risks.

White Sharks are protected in all Australian maritime waters, and in many other parts of the world, including in New Zealand.


Commercial tourist operations for the viewing of White Sharks were established in Spencer Gulf, South Australia in the 1970's, however, the White Shark cage dive industry has increased rapidly in recent years.

Charter companies operating from Port Lincoln, provide tourists with opportunites to view sharks at the Neptune Islands, 60-70 km south of Port Lincoln. These operations are very successful and provide world-class shark cage-diving experiences.

The Neptune Islands have the largest seal populations in Australia, and vessel operators attract White Sharks with a berley/chum mix of minced tuna and tuna oil. Baits of tuna pieces and entrails are also tied to the vessels. 

Recent studies have shown that there have been some changes to white shark behaviour and residency at the North Neptune Islands since 2007 when the industry increased the number and regularity of cage diving activities (Bruce & Bradford 2013). As these changes may lead to long-term localised changes in the behaviour of White Sharks, cage diving tourism can only operate 5 out of 7 days per week. 


Carcharodon is from the Greek carcharos (ragged) and odon (tooth), in reference to the triangular serrated teeth of this species.

Species Citation

Squalus carcharias Linnaeus, 1758,  Systema Naturae: 235. Type locality: Europe.


Bray, D.J. 2019


White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus 1758)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37010003


Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable; EPBC Vulnerable, Migratory; CITES listed

Danger:Extremely dangerous

Depth:0-1300 m

Max Size:Length 6.4 m; weight 3000 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map