white shark, large, ferocious shark, Carcharodon carcharias. Also known as the great white shark and maneater, this shark can attack swimmers and boats without provocation, though it does not typically do so. Although not abundant anywhere, it is widely distributed in tropical and temperate oceans and is found in both inshore and deep waters; it is most common on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Like the other members of its family, the mako and the porbeagle, it is a fast swimmer, with large pectoral fins and a nearly symmetrical tail fin. Despite its name, the white shark is usually whitish only on the underside, the back being some shade of gray. It has dark-tipped fins and a conspicuous black spot behind the pectorals. It reaches a length of over 20 ft (6 m) and a weight of over 7,000 lb (3,180 kg); one study has suggested that some individuals may live for 70 years or longer. The white shark feeds on large fish and other animals; a 100-lb (45-kg) sea lion was recovered from the stomach of one specimen. The shark's serrated, triangular teeth were used as arrowheads by Native Americans of the Florida coast. The white shark is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Chondrichthyes, order Selachii, family Isuridae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.