A Closer Look at the Great White - Oceana USA
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September 3, 2009

A Closer Look at the Great White

The Monterey Bay Aquarium recently welcomed a new juvenile great white shark, and they’ve been blogging about it regularly over at SeaNotes. In one recent post they cleared up some confusion about “white shark” vs “great white shark” (yes, they’re the same) vs. the Galapagos shark:

First, let’s get this straight. The white shark is not a white shark; only the belly is white. The back of the shark is a charcoal gray, that has her blend right in with the darker water at the back of our exhibit, so that she actually appears to vanish. And this is exactly what she’s hoping for. This design is known as countershading and is a form of camouflage, sometimes known as background matching. If the predator swims beneath the prey the dark back matches the dark water below. If above, then the white belly matches the lighter sunlit waters. So, if you see an all white shark in the exhibit, then you’re looking at a Galapagos shark – these are the largest sharks to roam our Outer Bay waters right now, clocking in at 6 feet and 125 pounds. The other way to tell these sharks apart from the great white is the absence of the toothy smile. The white shark enjoys displaying her dentures full time, and with an impressive display like that, who wouldn’t?

You can check out the shark’s countershading and more on the aquarium’s web cam.