Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Why do Great White Sharks always have a big bloody gape?

Something has been bothering me the last while. I can’t figure out why Great White Sharks are always depicted as having a big bloody gape? I have researched it a bit but have not come up with any good information. As it I see it though, there are three distinct possibilities:

1. The big bloody gape is a fallacy propagated by Hollywood
2. Blood is leftover from a kill
3. The blood is their own

There are few points to be noted about each possibility:

1. Purusing some stock photography (seen below) it seems that there a a mix of shark pictures, with and without bloody mouths. And of course, this may be subject to a photographer’s bias.

2. If the blood is indeed from a kill, why would it stain so long and not simply wash away? Also, it should be noted that Great Whites don't eat that often.

3. If the blood is their own, why doesn’t it attract other sharks?

If you have comments on this topic, please let me know, I would like to solve this mystery!


Laelaps said...

Wonderful question. Part of the answer is that such pictures sell; there are few things more impressive than a great white coming at you, full gape.

Also, when these pictures are taken the photographers haven't just happened across a shark; they've attracted them to the boat with chum and fish bits, which could add to the blood in their jaws/on their face.

Further, the sharks often bump or run into the boats/metal cages which could be the origin of some of the wounds on their noses.

Even contemplating prey, white sharks feed primarily on pinnipeds, armed with teeth and claws. While the public image is that sharks are 100% efficient and ruthless killers, this is certainly not the case, and if catching a seal or sea lion involved no harm white sharks likely wouldn't roll their eyes back to protect them when biting. Thus, many have scarred faces and may even have open wounds. I also have to wonder about the role of parasitic infection in shark mouths, but I don't know enough to say if it contributes one way or another.

Like you said, some pictures have bloody jaws and others do not; it probably depends on a lot of factors, although I would like to see if there was a global trend, i.e. Californian great whites having more bloody faces or jaws than their South African or Australian counterparts on account of prey choice.

Mambo-Bob said...

There was this short National Geographic (or something like that) footage called 'Air Jaws' that showed great whites jumping out of the water. This is because the sharks first dive and just shoot up at their prey with incredible speed, so much speed that they jump out into the air. So imagine an impact at that velocity! I won't be surprised if great whites are so scarred.

Global Warming said...

Only my guess, the bloody appearance is really the color of their palate and gums.

Btw... I have been reading your blog and find it interesting... have you seen the oldest tree fossil already?

Search for it, several sites have it posted already.

And are you willing also to cross promote our sites? I have a link on my website's sidebar promoting your site. Maybe you can promote mine as well.

GlobalWarming Awareness said...

Here's the tree fossil I was telling you about.

SEOContest2008 said...

Its simple!
It is number 2/
The blood does not wash away from the kill properly. In reality a great white does not brush its teeth very often!! and because its kills are raw and very bloody, the inside of its meat eating mouth is often stained red with the blood of its victims.

Anonymous said...

Cool question! I'm doing great white sharks as a research projects. maybe it has something to do with JAWS.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MrNobody said...

Well I don't research on sharks alot but I think its number 2, because the color RED stains! Try it with red soda or Koolaid. It stains carpets and other places!
The shark is actually a dumb animal

Beth said...

I always assumed it was because the sharks have those rows of constantly growing teeth, and that they were essentially biting themselves in the gums every time they close their mouths.

Xholisi said...

Well first of all, photographers don't always attract great whites by adding chum, From my experience when I went out with apex predators and chris fallows (the guys who took the bbc and planet earth crew) they wouldnt add chum as it makes the sharks to aggressive to close to the boat they added larger fish chunks like a fish head which is relatively blood free.
Also mythbusters proved sharks are not attracted to blood. they are actually attracted to both fish scents (from their fish juices lol) and electric impulses in the water, so that why it would attract other sharks.
And my guess why its there, these large sharks cycle their teeth regularly , so potentially these new razor shark teeth moving up and forward in the gums are cutting as they go.
hope that answers something.. lol

Sean Pickersgill said...

Mr nobody, the shark is actually one of the most intelligent creatures in the water, that is why camera men looking for footage of breaches ( when the shark jumps out of the water to catch prey) the dummy that the boat has to use as to be quite lifelike inc skin texture.