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Nature Live

September 4, 2009


Today Ollie Crimmen, the Museum’s  curator of fish, came into the studio to help us test the space with a new show  about the Great White Shark. Among other questions, we were asking whether Great  Whites could ever be found in British waters.


Ollie brought in a famous specimen  of a Great White’s jaw, which was originally reported as coming from a 36 foot  shark, though subsequent analysis by the Museum estimates it at about 25 feet –  still an awesome size. The specimen demonstrates the incredible rows of spare  teeth that Great Whites have lined up inside their jaw. If a tooth is lost the  next one in line just folds up to take its place.


Great Whites also have tiny teeth  all over their skin. This reduces drag as they swim, which has been copied by  the designers of the body suits that swimmers wear in competition these days.


So could Great Whites be found in  British Waters? Well there are around 40 -45 species of shark that can already  be spotted off the British coast. The most common is the amazing basking shark,  which filters plankton through its huge mouth. However, none of the reports and  grainy photos of supposed Great Whites in Britain have  been verified by the Museum thus far.


But just when you thought it was  safe to go the water, Ollie pointed out that there’s no reason why Great Whites  couldn’t come here: the water temperature would be ok for them, they’d be able  to live from eating seals, and getting here wouldn’t be difficult. In fact one  tagged Great White was recorded as travelling from South Africa to Australia and back in 9 days! So they  have no problem swimming huge distances. Think about that next time you take a  trip to the seaside.





Jaws: the natural  History of Sharks

All about sharks, from the natural  History Museum website


British Shark  Trust (external link)

A UK  charity that promotes the conservation of sharks

A Nature Live fan gets close to the famous Great White jaw specimen