Types of Sharks in False Bay
Due to the infamy, the Great White has achieved in the False Bay waters, one tends to overlook the magnificent types of Sharks we find in False Bay. Although being able to safely see a Great White Shark is deservedly on many a man’s bucket list, many of our smaller predators are over shadowed by the powerful presence of the White. Yet the sea that surrounds the Cape Peninsula is abundant in incredible sea life, including the Sharks listed below.
The Below table consists of the various shark species found and spotted over the years in False Bay, it is interesting as well to note that most of these are possible and certain prey for our majestic Great White Shark, and there is very little threat to humans by Sharks other than our Great White; so we tend to pay less attention to them. However, we are lucky enough to be home to so many wonderful species of Shark and Cartilaginous Fish, and sighting some of these beauties can be just as rare and incredible as sighting a Great White.
It is almost as if we have the Marine ‘Kruger Park’ in our back yard, and yet we only want to see the ‘Lion’ (Great White) of the sea. If you do find yourself heading down the Southern Peninsula, you might want to look into the profuse sea life we do have, as the many species of shark found, is only the tip of a very large iceberg. And of course, while here, book a cage dive with the Great Whites, or one of the other beautiful species of shark in the area!
|FAMILY||GENUS & SPECIES||COMMON NAME|
|o Alopiidae||· Alopias vulpinus||· Thresher shark|
|o Callorhinchidae||· Callorhinchus capensis||· St Joseph|
|o Carcharhinidae||· Carcharhinus brachyurus||· Bronze whaler|
|· Carcharhinus obscurus||· Dusky shark|
|· Carcharhinus plumbeus||· Sandbar shark|
|o Hexanchidae||· Notorynchus cepedianus||· Sevengill cowshark|
|o Lamnidae||· Carcharodon carcharias||· Great white shark|
|· Isurus oxyrinchus||· Shortfin mako|
|o Odontaspididae||· Carcharias taurus||· Spotted ragged tooth|
|o Rhinobatidae||· Rhinobatos annulatus||· Lesser guitarfish|
|o Scyliorhinidae||· Halaelurus natalensis||· Tiger catshark|
|· Haploblepharus edwardsii||· Puffadder shyshark|
|· Poroderma africanum||· Pyjama shark|
|o Sphyrnidae||· Sphyrna zygaena||· Smooth hammerhead|
|o Triakidae||· Galeorhinus galeus||· Soupfin shark/vaalhaai|
|· Mustelus mustelus||· Houndshark|
|· Triakis megalopterus||· Spotted gully shark|
It is my great privilege to be able to bring some of the beautiful False Bay Sharks to you, in this blog.
Let’s start with the infamous Great White Shark.
Great White Shark Trivia
“Shark”… Few words have as much attention grabbing power. Add “Great White” to that and you will command a room. Many wait an entire lifetime to see a Great White Shark, but few want to meet one, thanks to Hollywood’s unrealistic and deceitful portrayal of the Great White, in its pursuit of fame and fortune, no image induces as much fear or signifies “death” in the water, as much as a dorsal fin!
How much do you really know about The Great White Shark? Truthfully, how much does anyone really know about this fascinating creature?
Well, I have decided to give you a couple pointers, so that you are able to speak with the best of them, offering up some relevant and interesting titbits to amaze your friends with your knowledge of the Great White Shark! Let’s get started, with a couple easy pointers…
- Common names:Great White Shark, Great White, White Shark, White Pointer.
- Scientific name:Carcharodon carcharias
- Size:Great White Sharks can reach up to 7.3 m in length (as per the largest White Shark ever caught on camera in Guadeloupe) and weigh up to 2.5 tons. The males reach sexual maturity between 3.5 and 4.1 m, and the females at a much larger size of 4 and 5 m.
- Coloration:The dorsal surface ranges from dark grey to light brown, while the underside is white.
- Range/Distribution:The Great White Shark is one of the most widely distributed of all sharks and has been sighted in almost every region of the globe from cold seas to the tropics, and from coastal to oceanic seas. They are mainly found between the latitudes of 60° North and 60° South, in waters ranging in temperature between 14° C and 24° C. The highest concentrations of Great Whites are found in the vicinity of Cape Fur Seal colonies.
- Reproduction:Female Great Whites give birth to between 2 and 10 live young at a time (pups), ranging from 1.1 to 1.65 m in length, after a gestation period of around 14 to 18 months.
- Body temperature:Great White Sharks have a counter-current heat exchange system that enables it to keep vital organs up to 14°C warmer than the surrounding water.
- Swimming speed:During ocean crossings, Great Whites keep a minimum sustained speed of around 4.7 km per hour, but they are capable of reaching speeds of up to 50 km per hour in short bursts.
- Teeth:Great Whites have 26 broad triangular-shaped and serrated teeth in each row of the upper jaw, and 24 more pointed teeth in the lower jaw rows. Great Whites can loose and replace up to 3000 teeth in its life time.
- Prey:Cape Fur Seals, other sharks, rays, bony fish, dolphins and whales, are the preferred meal choices for Great Whites. Their diet does change between the seasons. Please note, it does not include humans.
- Hunting: During the winter seasons of the coast of Cape Town, in the False Bay area specifically, the White Shark will breach the water from the depths in its pursuit of prey, as a hunting technique, which has fascinated people the world over.
- Threats: Being perceived as the “apex predator” of the ocean, one would be excused in thinking that this creature has no threats; where in fact it faces two very real threats; 1. Humans and 2. Orcas or killer whales
- Defence: Great White Sharks will produce a pheromone that they release into the water, when they feel threatened or are killed, this pheromone is very distinct and pungent to other Great Whites and it basically tells them to “vacate the area”, which they will do, and sometimes as far as 160km for up to 10 to 12 weeks at a time.
- The Most Famous Great White Sharks: Deep Blue, the 7.3 meter female caught on camera off Guadeloupe. Colossus, the shy 6 meter bull (male), a regular visitor to False Bay’s Seal Island and finally Lucy, a 5.1 meter female who also calls Guadeloupe home.
Now let’s move onto some more obscure facts.
- The Great White Sharks’ teeth are more sensitive than its skin? They use their teeth to gather information when attempting a test bite
- The jaw of a Great White can open to 8 feet wide
- Great Whites will chow down on the tail fin of a deceased whale first, it’s the sharks preferred part of the whale
- The largest Great White ever captured was off the coast of Cuba and was 21 feet in length and weighed in at 7 328 pounds, this was in 1945 – since then Great White Sharks have been placed on the endangered list in most countries
- The dorsal fin of a Great White Shark helps to stabilize it, keeping it upright and not rolling over
- Great White Sharks (as with other sharks) when threatened or killed, will release a pheromone in to the water that will warn all the Great Whites within the vicinity to vacate – the surviving sharks have been known to swim as much as 100 miles away from the area and only return between 2 and sometimes 10 weeks later
- The female of the Great White Shark is referred to as a “female” while the males are called “bulls” and the juveniles; “pups”
- Great White Shark fossils date back to as much as 11 million years
- Great Whites have an “anti-tumor” gene, that scientists are hoping may lead to cancer fighting medicines in humans
- A Great Whites tongue has no taste buds or smell receptors of any kind, and are only used to feel the texture of their prey
- Great White Shark teeth were used by the ancient native Americans as arrow heads due to their triangular shape and saw-like composition
- Great Whites primary food course is tuna, yellowtail, smaller sharks, seals and sea lions
- Great White Sharks have different personalities, this is very obvious when out there doing a cage dive as some of the sharks play, while others are shy
- A Great White Sharks iris is actually blue and not black as is believed
- Great Whites roll their eyes back into their heads as they are about to attack, this is a protective measure to protect their eyes from damage
- Great White Sharks grow between 25 and 30 centimetres per year
Ok, so let’s be fair, Great White Sharks didn’t just get to be so very terrifying without reason. They are known to eat seals, sea lions, sea turtles and small whales… pretty chilling when you think that the smallest whale, the dwarf sperm whale, is a sizeable fellow of almost three metres in length, weighing about two hundred and fifty kilograms. (Note yet again, that humans are NOT included in this list.) Be warned: it’s not only their diet that’s large! Great White Sharks can grow to a little over seven metres and weigh over two thousand kilograms, making them the largest predatory fish in all the ocean.Again, not that I said “fish”, as the Orca or Killer Whale, is a mammal.
It was believed by many that Great White Sharks evolved from the colossal fossil, the Megalodon, which had six inch teeth and was roughly the size of a bus. Fossilised Megalodon teeth that date back to over twenty million years ago have been found on ancient sea beds. Imagine a tooth bigger than your hand! It is only these very teeth that prove the Megalodon’s existence, as a skeleton has never been found. And it is these very teeth that allow scientists to safely assume that the Great White Sharks is a descendant of the Megalodon. Teeth from both species have a similar structure, with saw-like edges that are best for munching mammals. It’s easy to see why people have associated these two enormous carnivores with one another, however, a new study suggests that the Great White Shark may not be related to the Megalodon at all.
Great White Sharks and Mako Sharks – family?
This study found that Great White Sharks may in fact be a closer relative to the Mako family, which is a smaller breed of shark but that does not make them any less memorable. Mako sharks are the fastest sharks in the world, traveling at speeds of over ninety-six kilometres per hour, for long and as yet unrecorded distances! The new fossil discovery shows teeth that are somewhere between the smooth-edged ones of the fish eating Mako ancestor and the rugged ones of today’s Great White Shark, providing a solid evolutionary link between the two.
The Short-finned Mako shark has never in recorded history attacked a human being.
You have been seen by more sharks than you have seen.
Let that settle in. Could the new-found knowledge that the Great White Shark may be a variation of the Mako tell us more about the temperament of these sharks we fear with such vehemence? Could these sharks, that terrorise the nightmares of many, actually be a much gentler breed than we dare to credit them for? As a matter of fact, I can guarantee that you have been seen by more sharks in your life time than you have seen with your own eyes. So, looking at the facts, I’d say yes. It tells us that as long as we are cautious, as we should be with all wildlife, we may not have so much to fear after all.
Till we meet again, Keep that toothy grin!
By Nadine Bentley