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.
All about sharks, from the natural History Museum website
A UK charity that promotes the conservation of sharks