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  • In Gansbaai, the largest white shark ever caught was at Danger Point and measured up to 5.9m. The exact world record white shark is a contested issue, but chances are it is between 6-7m.

  • If you see a white shark in the water don’t panic. Chances are high that the shark has already detected you and isn’t interested. White shark attacks are normally associated with poor visibility, so avoid murky conditions.

  • White sharks have a unique system called a “counter current heat exchange”, which keeps their body  tempreture +/- 7C above the surrounding water temperature. 

  • All sharks have an incredibly unique system on the tip of their nose called the “ampillae of Lorenzini”. These are small pores filled with a gel that transmits the electrical currents in the water to the shark’s brain so that it can assess its environment.

  • White sharks give birth to live young (not eggs), and they give birth to 6-8 pups at one time. Pups are usually between 1.0-1.5m in length and are born with teeth.

  • Body language has been a well documented form of shark communication and has identified body arching, jaw gaping, and other postures as specific social tactics.

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Our Marine Biologists

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Marlena Sturup

Visiting Biologist
“I am currently conducting a behavioral study on the great white shark. The aim of the project is to understand how physiological stress and genetics affect individual variation in behavior (termed ‘personality’) in a large apex predator. My background is in evolutionary ecology, where I used social insects as a model species to answer questions about the evolution of male reproductive traits. Yet, I have been fascinated with sharks ever since I can remember, so to say I am living my dream is an understatement. I have been diving with numerous shark species all over the world, but when I came to South Africa in 2006 and had my first great white shark encounter it surpassed all other diving experiences. The great white shark however, is not only a fascinating species it is also a uniquely good model system for a field study on animal personality.  Individual variation in personality within a population can affect foraging strategies, predation and vulnerability to environmental and anthropological stresses, yet our knowledge of the proximate mechanisms that produce personalities is limited. Apex predators typically have small population sizes with a disproportionate impact on their surrounding ecosystem, making individual variation in behavior likely to be of significant importance for ecology and conservation, hence understanding the physiological and genetic factors that affect personalities is therefore especially important in these taxa. Working with Marine Dynamics allows me to study one of the major unanswered scientific questions about animal behavior, while using a truly magnificent keystone species as my model system. White sharks still suffer from the general public’s limited and inaccurate understanding of them, so incorporating knowledge on their individual personalities is extremely important for developing conservation strategies and managing human-animal conflict.”