Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are the largest predatory fish on earth and are often considered the wolves of the sea – big and lethal, great whites are not sharks to mess with.
But just how big can they get?
How Big Can Great White Sharks Get?
Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish on earth and are some of the most recognizable fish in the ocean due to their exposure by modern media like Jaws and Sharknado.
With countless rows of sharp teeth and wide mouths, their size is only part of the reason they’re seen as such predatory figures in the ocean.
At peak maturity, larger females of the species can grow up to 20ft in length and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Males, similarly, can measure up to 13ft and weigh up to 4,200 pounds.
The sexual dimorphism of the species – or the way males and females differ from one another – dictates that female sharks are almost always the bigger members of the species with male sharks often significantly smaller.
Why Are Great White Sharks So Large?
Great white sharks grow continuously over their lifetimes, getting bigger and bigger the older they get.
Both males and females of the species take 20-30 years to reach sexual maturity, and the oldest great whites have been recorded to be at least 70 years old. After sexual maturity is reached, growth slows, but doesn’t stop.
Environment and food supply are crucial to this process – a lack of predatory figures against sharks like orcas is pivotal to a great white is crucial to its survival and subsequent growth.
Food supply is just as important – the more a shark eats, the more energy it has to divert towards growing.
Growth is an extremely costly process as far as energy consumption is concerned, so a shark needs to eat a lot in order to grow.
There are environmental factors that could lend themselves to the growth of a great white – bigger sharks can be indicators of fewer predatory figures like orcas, boats, or human interaction.
Bigger sharks are often hunted for their meat and fins.
What is the Biggest Great White Shark Ever Recorded?
The biggest great white shark ever recorded is a female shark affectionately named Deep Blue. She was spotted and filmed for the 2014 episode of Shark Week’s “Jaws Strikes Back” and measures in at 20 ft long and is estimated to be about 4,500 pounds.
Scientists believe she’s about 50 years old, and they believe that at the time of her discovery she was heavily pregnant, adding to her already formidable size.
Bigger sharks are believed to produce bigger litters, meaning Deep Blue was probably pregnant with multiple babies.
Deep Blue’s case gives insight to researchers on what sort of conditions are optimal for sharks to grow as big and live as long as Deep Blue herself.
Researchers believe that Deep Blue is not yet done growing, and is expected to live at least another 25-30 years.
Even though she is the largest great white ever filmed, she is not the largest shark specimen in history, as that record is held by the prehistoric Megalodon.