How Deep Can Great White Sharks Dive and What’s Their Deep Sea Prey?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: August 10, 2022
Image Credit Byron K. Dilkes/Shutterstock.com
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The great white shark is the largest predatory fish on earth. It is responsible for the most reported and identified fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans. As a result, a great white shark specimen is the antagonist, if you may, of the famous movie Jaws.

As apex predators, great white sharks have a varied diet and can submerge to great depths. Even though one of the main constituents of their diet is the earless seal, these sharks are known to dive quite deep. In some cases, they dive as low as approximately 4,000 feet deep.

Keep reading this article to discover how deep great white sharks can dive and what the species hunt while roaming the ocean’s depths!

What are great white sharks?

Great White Shark - Great White Bite
Great white sharks are also known as white pointers or great whites.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

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Great white sharks are also known as white pointers or great whites. They are the largest living species of the Lamnidae family of mackerel sharks. They live in temperate coastal waters – Northeastern and Western United States; Southern Australia; Southern Africa; and Northern Japan. Some individuals were also spotted in the Mediterranean. 

These incredibly large sharks can reach a length of 20 feet and a weight of 5,000 pounds! Their bodies are torpedo-shaped, with a white underbelly and dark blue, brown, or gray backs and sides. Great whites have pointed, coarsely serrated teeth. 

Great white sharks are infamous for their aggressiveness, but little is known about their social behavior. They are considered solitary aquatic creatures. The great white shark has an average lifespan of about 30 to 50 years. However, a study shows that long-lived specimens could swim in the ocean for up to 70 years or more.

Do great white sharks swim deep?

Great white sharks are epipelagic fish. This means they usually inhabit the uppermost layer of the water at depths of up to 656 feet. Most of a great white’s life is spent at such depths. Great whites dive lower, usually when they migrate.

Great white sharks are migratory sharks that move around the ocean depending on the season and water temperature. During the migration process, the shark swims slower and dives even deeper. Research suggests they can reach approximately 2,900 feet below the water surface while migrating.

How deep can great white sharks dive?

What Do Great White Sharks Eat?
Research showed that a 15-foot shark called “Shack” was swimming at 3,937 feet below the water surface.

iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

Research showed that a 15-foot shark called “Shack” was swimming at 3,937 feet below the water surface. At the same time, it traveled across the ocean, passing through the Mesopelagic Zone (656-3,280 feet) and continued into the Bathypelagic Zone (3,280-13,123 feet). Swimming so deep is very unusual for great white sharks, judging by their usual habitat. This only confirms that there are still many curious things about them that await discovery!

What’s the deepest a shark can dive?

Sharks can dive as deep as 10,000 feet below the water surface. Beyond this depth, they encounter new competition – species of bony fishes. As such, scientists (in a Dr. Priede et al. study) never witnessed a shark diving more than 10,000 feet deep.

Among the known deepest-diving sharks, we can mention the great white, the bluntnose sixgill, and the frilled sharks

What is a great white shark’s deep sea prey?

Great White Shark in pond
Great white sharks are believed to feed on opahs when they dive into deeper aquatic habitats.

wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

Great white sharks are believed to feed on opahs when they dive into deeper aquatic habitats. Opahs are also called moonfish, kingfish, or redfin ocean pans. They are pelagic lampriform fishes. Opahs’ main predators are great white sharks and mako sharks

Other aquatic creatures living in the Mesopelagic and Bathypelagic Zones that great white sharks feed on include:

What is White Shark Café?

White Shark Cafe is a meeting place for great white sharks during winter and spring. It is located between Baja California and Hawaii. On their journey, great white sharks swim at approximately 3.3 ft/s and periodically go down to 3,000 feet beneath the surface. However, when they reach the Café, their behavior changes slightly. Every ten minutes, they dive to 1,500 feet beneath the surface. A research paper concluded that this is associated with either foraging or mating. It distinguishes two types of behaviors at the Cafe:

  • Diel vertical migration – during this type, sharks dive to depths of 1,148–1,640 feet during the day; after the sunset, they return to shallow waters; this is linked to foraging;
  • Rapid oscillatory diving – during this type of behavior, sharks make frequent dives to 98–656 feet deep; this is linked to mating and is more frequent during May, June, and July.

Do great white sharks live in shallow water?

Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, showing its teeth.
Great white sharks are more likely to swim in shallow water during the day or night when their visibility is at its best.

Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

A study based on eight great whites living near Cape Cod showed that they spent almost half of their time as deep as 15 feet beneath the surface. They are more likely to swim in shallow water during the day or night when their visibility is at its best. However, since this study was conducted only on eight tagged sharks, further investigation is needed to clearly state whether shallow water is a favorable habitat for great whites.

Interesting facts about the great white shark

  1. Great white sharks can control their body temperature, which is a significant advantage for hunting. They’re great predators in cold waters because they can maintain their body temperatures at 55°F.
  2. Great whites can have up to 20,000 teeth throughout their lifetime. They have more than 300 triangular, serrated teeth at a time. They are arranged in five to seven rows, and each tooth is approximately 2-3 inches long. However, these teeth are regularly replaced by new ones.
  3. White pointers can smell blood within 10 billion drops of seawater! That’s how developed their sense of smell is!
  4. Great white sharks have sensory organs called “Ampullae of Lorenzini” that help them feel electrical impulses in the environment. 
  5. Great white sharks swim at high speeds, reaching 35 miles per hour!
  6. While they are considered the most aggressive sharks worldwide and have been involved in more than 300 attacks, they don’t usually attack humans to feed on them. They’re more likely to approach people out of curiosity.

Great white shark in the ocean
The great white shark has an incredible sense of smell that helps it to detect prey from two miles away.
Byron K. Dilkes/Shutterstock.com
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I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on real estate, nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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