#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 9°C Monday 23 May 2022
Advertisement

This is what the inside of a great white shark looks like

A new documentary has taken a look at the insides of the animal.

GREAT WHITE SHARKS are usually seen as cold-blooded killers, thanks to films like “Jaws.”

But the truth is, great whites rarely attack humans. More people are killed by kitchen toasters each year than by sharks.

It’s the great white’s extraordinary killer instincts that give these sea beasts such a misleading reputation. Still, so much about the great white remains a mystery.

In the documentary series “Inside Nature’s Giants,” experts carve open a great white to understand more about this species’ behaviour and evolution.

Scroll down to see the fascinating dissection.

South Africa’s Mossel Bay is a popular tourist spot known for its dense population of great whites. In 2010, a massive great white was caught in a beach net designed to protect humans. The female 12-year-old shark weighed nearly 2,000 pounds and was 15 feet long.

sharks - 2 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

The first thing you’ll notice is the stomach in the shark’s mouth. Scientists aren’t sure why this happened, but they think the shark may have vomited out its own stomach in the panic of being trapped in a net.

sharks - 3 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

The shark is lowered down onto the dissection table and the first cut is made. The skin of the shark is like slicing through sand paper.

sharks - 4 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

A shark’s skin is rough because it is covered with tiny teeth, which are the same as the big teeth that sharks use to eat with. From an evolutionary standpoint, the micro-teeth of a shark’s skin became the teeth in their mouth.

sharks - 5 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Interestingly, while the shark’s teeth are very sharp, they are also quite wobbly and can be pushed in with the touch of a finger.

sharks - 6 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Sharks continuously shed their teeth, which are arranged in rows. The first row of teeth is functional and the rows behind act as “spares.” As the rows fall out, they are replaced by a new set.

sharks - 7 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

The shark’s huge jaw muscles deliver a relatively weak bite. That’s because the jaw isn’t attached to the skull.

sharks - 8 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Because of this, when a shark opens its mouth the jaw can be thrown forward, enlarging the size of its bite. This helps the shark take huge chunks out of their prey.

sharks - 9 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

But great whites rarely attack humans. And when they do, most people survive. That’s because the first bite is usually a weak “exploratory bite.” When the shark realizes it doesn’t like the taste, they don’t come back.

sharks - 10 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Here are the shark’s gills. In order for sharks to breathe, water must flow through its gills, where oxygen exchange occurs. If a shark stops swimming, preventing water from moving through its gills, it will suffocate and die.

sharks - 11 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Sharks never close their eyes except for the moment they strike their prey. The eye socket rolls back as a form of protection during the attack. A great white shark never blinks because it has no eyelid.

sharks - 12 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Slicing through the eye is also very difficult. This is another layer of defense designed to protect the shark in an attack.

sharks - 13 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

A shark’s nostrils have two holes to the let water in and out. The nose is adapted to pick up small particles, especially blood.

sharks - 14 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Because their hearing isn’t great at pinpointing the direction a sound comes from, sharks have a special sensory system called the lateral line, shown here. The sensory organ can detect vibrations in the water and sends these signals to the brain.

sharks - 15 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Unlike other fish, sharks lack gas-filled swim bladders that control buoyancy. Instead, they rely on a giant liver packed with oil to keep them afloat. Sharks will sink if they stop swimming.

sharks - 16 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

The liver is as big as a person.

sharks - 17 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Once the liver is removed, you’ll notice there are hardly any guts.

sharks - 18 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

This is the shark’s intestine. It isn’t coiled like you would find in a mammal.

sharks - 19 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Unlike humans and most other vertebrates, sharks don’t have any bones; it’s all cartilage. This unique quality is what gives them lightness and flexibility in the water, while enabling them to become the largest fish in the sea. Shown here is the whale shark, which can weigh up to 20 tons.

sharks - 20 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Nearly 90% of the tail is muscle. The red muscle is used for sustained swimming. The white muscle is used for sudden bursts of energy like during an attack.

sharks - 21 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

Finally, scientists get to the computer that controls all of these senses: the brain. It’s held within a cartilage cranium. In order to reach it, you have to take the entire head off.

sharks - 22 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

This is the cavity where the brain sits. It’s small, but extremely specialized in order to process lots of sensory information. All of these senses are what make the great white a super predator.

sharks - 23 Source: Inside Nature's Giants: Great White Shark

The full documentary can be watched here. 

Read: After a string of ‘unprecedented’ attacks, Australia is getting tough with sharks

Also: Man to sue airline after flesh-eating spider bite caused his leg to ‘burst open’

Published with permission from:

Business Insider
Business Insider is a business site with strong financial, media and tech focus.

Read next:

COMMENTS (18)