Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Great White Shark

The behavior and social structure of the white shark is not well understood but recent research shows that white sharks are more social than previously thought. In South Africa, white sharks seem to have a dominance hierarchy depending on size, sex and squatter's rights. Females dominate over males, larger sharks dominate smaller sharks, and residents dominate newcomers. When hunting the white sharks tend to space out between each other and resolve conflicts with rituals and displays.[12] White sharks rarely resort to combat although some individuals have been found with bite marks that match that of other white sharks. This suggests that when their personal space is intruded upon, a white shark will give the intruder a warning bite. Another possibility is that white sharks may softly bite other individuals as a way of showing their dominance. Also, as noted above, white sharks can be cannibalistic.

The great white shark is one of only a few sharks known to regularly lift its head above the sea surface to gaze at other objects such as prey; this is known as "spy-hopping". This behaviour has also been seen in at least one group of blacktip reef sharks, but this might be a behaviour learned from interaction with humans (it is theorized that the shark may also be able to smell better this way, because smells travel through air faster than through water). They are very curious animals, and can display a high degree of intelligence and personality when conditions permit.

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