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Great White Shark: Habitat & Distribution

The great white shark is found mostly in temperate seas throughout the world's oceans. It makes infrequent visits to cold waters and has been recorded off Alaska and Canada.

Great whites can be found along the coastlines of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California to Alaska, the east coast of USA and the Gulf coast, Hawaii, most of South America, the Mediterranean Sea, West Africa to Scandinavia, Japan and the eastern coastline of China and southern Russia.

The white shark lives mainly in the upper part of the water column, near the shore. However, it ranges from the surf line to well offshore and from the surface and to depths of over 250m (775ft). This shark commonly patrols small coastal islands inhabited by pinnipeds (seals, sea lions and walruses), offshore reefs, banks and rocky headlands where there is deepwater close to shore. The white shark usually cruises either just off the bottom or near the surface.


Although information about the white shark's movements is limited by its rarity, some information has been gathered through tag-and-release programs in the United States, South Africa and Australia. These studies reveal that the white shark is capable of making movements on localised, regional and intercontinental scales. Generally, larger individuals undertake long journeys across the great oceans.

The great white is also capable of short, high-speed pursuits and even launching itself clear from the water (breaching). They are propelled through the water by their powerful tails, and they use their fins for balance. Sharks swim constantly, otherwise they will sink as they don't have a buoyant swim bladder like other fish.

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