Great Whites Are Not Such Picky Eaters

Written by on October 1, 2012 in Marine Life

A new study by researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz (USCS), has shown that great white sharks have a much more flexible diet than previously thought.

White sharks are known to feed primarily on seals and sea lions.  But, by analyzing the composition of growth bands in shark vertebraefrom 15 different sharks, the team was able to determine variations in a shark’s diet throughout its lifetime.

Great White Shark.

Great White Shark. Photo credit: Michael Heilemann via photo pin cc

“We did find that white shark diets changed with age, as expected, but we were surprised that the patterns and extent of change differed among individuals,” explained Sora Kim, who led the study as a UCSC graduate student.

All of the sharks used in this study were caught along the west coast of the U.S. near California.  Sharks from this area feed on seals, sea lions, dolphins, fish and squid.

Co-author Paul Koch, professor of Earth and planetary sciences as USCS explained that not every shark eats the same thing.

“We confirmed that the diets of many individuals observed at seal and sea lion rookeries shift from fish to marine mammals as the sharks mature,” he said.  “In addition, we discovered that different individual sharks may specialize on different types of prey.  These two types of flexibility in feeding behavior are difficult to document using traditional methods, but may be very important for understanding how the population is supported by the eastern Pacific ecosystem and how it may respond to changes in that ecosystem.”

To learn more:

Great White Shark

Great White Shark. Photo credit: pterantula via photopin cc


Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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