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. 2023, Carcharodon carcharias in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/1846

White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus 1758)

More Info


In Australia, White Sharks are known from about Yeppoon on the Queensland coast (and even further north to Innisfail and reefs in the Coral Sea), around southern Australia to about Onslow, 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 most commonly found in depths above 100 m, White Sharks are known to dive to at least 1300 m.

Individuals may 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.

Although mostly a solitary species, White Sharks seasonally aggregate at a number of sites worldwide to feed on calorie-rich pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) (Schilds et al. 2019). 


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. Adults are opportunistic feeders that prey on a range of vertebrates, including fishes, large crustaceans, cephalopod molluscs, turtles, sea birds, 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.

Juveniles feed on mid-water fishes like Australian salmon, bottom-dwelling fishes such as flounders and stingrays, and occasionally on reef-dwelling fishes.


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.

NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Fisheries Management Act 1994 (New South Wales): August 2016 list) as Carcharadon carcharias

TAS: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): June 2019 list) as Carcharodon carcharias

VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): April 2018 list) as Carcharodon carcharias

WA: Listed as Vulnerable (Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (Western Australia): September 2018 list) as Carcharodon carcharias

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


Although commercial tourist operations for viewing White Sharks were established in Spencer Gulf, South Australia in the 1970's, 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. 

Similar Species

carchar-, presumably referring to Carcharias (Carchariidae); odon, Latinized and grammatically adjusted from the Greek nominative ὀδούς (odoús), tooth, “Teeth as in Carchari[a]s, serrated on both edges”  Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus 1758) from kárcharos (Gr. κάρχαρος), saw-like or jagged, referring to its teeth (“dentibus serratus


The specific name carcharias is from the Greek karcharos(= jagged, saw-like) 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. 2023


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