Great White Shark Lifespan: How Long Do Great White Sharks Live?

Written by Volia Nikaci
Updated: February 3, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Peter_Nile
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Great white sharks live are the world’s largest predatory fish. Most of us are familiar with this specific shark thanks to movies such as Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. When many people mention being afraid of swimming in deep waters, it’s often because of sharks. However, great white shark attacks are actually not as frequent as one might think. 

Still, despite all the fear surrounding this fantastic hunter, the great white shark is a fascinating creature. Have you always been interested in learning more about this beast of prey? In this article, we’ll give you the rundown on this massive hunter along with details on the great white shark lifespan and life cycle. Let’s uncover what makes this shark so great! 

The Rundown on Great White Sharks 

Great White Sharks actually existed before Dinosaurs.

Ramon Carretero/Shutterstock.com

There are more than 450 shark species in the world, including the great white shark, known by the scientific name Carcharodon carcharias. They are considered an apex predator, as they are at the top of the food chain in the ocean. It is possible for great white sharks to reach lengths of 20 feet, although most are much smaller. Females average 15-16 feet in length, while men average 11-13 feet. 

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They may be found in seas all around the world, except for Antarctica. They are primarily found in coastal regions. Even though they are quite intimidating, the great white shark plays a very important role in the ocean’s ecosystem. As such large predators, they keep populations of sea lions and elephant seals at bay. The oceans are balanced when a great white shark is around. 

So how long do these massive hunters live? Let’s go into the great white shark lifespan and how long they live.

How Long Does A Great White Shark Live?

Shark fins are unique and comparable to fingerprints.

Terry Goss / Creative Commons

The average lifespan of a great white shark is 40 – 70 years of age. This is a big difference from what scientists originally thought. Until 2014, experts thought that great white sharks only lived for 25 to 30 years.

However, studies conducted by the Marine and Freshwater Research determined that white sharks may grow more slowly and live longer than previously thought. The researchers used eight sharks of varied sizes and confirmed yearly age regularity of up to 44 years. This resulted in the conclusion that white sharks in the western North Atlantic ocean can live for an estimated 73 years.

According to a research article in PLOS One Journal, white sharks may be among the longest-lived chondrichthyan fishes. Chondrichthyan fishes include sharks, skates, stingrays, and chimaeras. 

Now that we know that sharks can live just as long as humans, how do they go through their stages of life? Let’s uncover that in more detail. 

The Average Great White Shark Life Cycle 

Biggest Fish: Great White Shark
Great white sharks can dive out of the water just like whales.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

So how do sharks go from baby to greatly feared predator? Great white sharks are classified into five life phases by scientists: fertilization, incubation & gestation, pups, subadults, and adults. Let’s explore each life stage in detail. 

Fertilization

In sharks, fertilization is the starting point of their lives. Mating among sharks is somewhat unknown, with researchers and scientists rarely witnessing it. Internal fertilization of the female egg happens. The male’s pelvic fin is most closely related to a penis in mammalian species and is what is used to fertilize the eggs. 

Incubation & Gestation

After fertilization, sharks go through incubation. The majority of sharks lay eggs inside their body. The female shark will remain pregnant for 12-22 months. Interestingly enough, cannibalism occurs in some shark species when the first pup to hatch consumes the rest of the eggs while still within its mother. Oophagy is the term for this behavior.

Pups 

A baby shark is called a pup. Many sharks give birth to live young. Female great whites are able to give birth to 2-14 pups at a time. At birth, the pups are 4 to 5 feet long and entirely self-sufficient. It will quickly swim away from its mother and begin hunting for little sea creatures.

Subadults 

Sharks are not considered fully grown adults for many years. In fact, a shark might take up to 15 years to fully mature. Most sharks remain close to their birthplace until they reach adulthood.  Since growth can take so long, there are many sharks that die before reaching adulthood. 

Adults

If a shark makes it into adulthood, that means it can finally reproduce. As adults, sharks will spend most of their time hunting for food. Unlike humans, sharks don’t really sleep either. They can take an occasional nap here and there, but they really only rest more during the colder months. And even then, they only rest for around 10% of their day.

Common Factors That May Negatively Impact the Great White Shark Lifespan 

As an apex predator, the great white shark is at the top of the food chain. This means that there isn’t really much in the ocean that can kill them or hunt them down. They only have one natural predator in the ocean, and that is the killer whale. So if you’re curious about what could kill a predator as big and scary as a great white, then read on! 

  • Killer whales: Orcas, also known as killer whales, are the only natural predator of great white sharks. Recently, there have been government reports that orcas off the coast of South Africa are killing great white sharks and eating their livers. There were at least 7 great whites that were found killed. 
  • Overfishing: Overexploitation of sharks by humans is the biggest killer of great white sharks. Overfishing has become a huge problem, with over 100 million species of sharks killed per year. The great white shark is no exception to this. Sharks are often caught for their their fins for use in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asia. There is also overfishing for their meat, liver oil, cartilage, leather, and even their teeth.
  • Habitat destruction: To survive and hunt prey, all sharks rely on healthy ecosystems. The effects of climate change, pollution, and the loss of regions such as mangroves and reefs all contribute to habitat destruction. These areas are incredibly important for sharks as they use them for hunting and keeping their pups safe. 

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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