Great whites became the ocean’s top hunters through the evolution of supremely-adapted senses and physiology.
Great white sharks' most acute sense is smell. If there were just a single drop of blood floating in 10 billion drops of water, they could smell it! Their nostrils are on the underside of the snout and lead to an organ called the olfactory bulb. The great white’s olfactory bulb is reported to be the largest of any shark.
Shark external ears are hard to see: they are just two small openings behind and above the eyes. The ears may be small, but they’re powerful. Inside, there are cells that can sense even the tiniest vibration in the surrounding water. Sharks also have an ‘ear stone’ that responds to gravity, giving the animal clues as to where it is in the water: head up, head down, right side up, or upside down.
A great white sharks has great vision. The retina of its eye is divided into two areas – one adapted for day vision, the other for low-light and night. To protect itself, the great white shark can roll its eye backward into the socket when threatened.
Sharks have a sense that humans can only be in awe of – they can sense an electrical field. A series of pores on the shark’s snout are filled with cells called the Ampullae of Lorenzini that can feel the power and direction of electrical currents. Scientists have discovered that sharks can use this sense to navigate through the open ocean by following an electrical ‘map’ of the magnetic fields that crisscross the Earth’s crust.
Great white sharks are opportunistic eaters. Depending on the season, area and age, they will hunt seals and sea lions, fish, squid, and even other sharks. They have taste buds inside their mouths and throats that enable them to identify the food before swallowing.
Great white sharks have an elaborate sense of touch through what’s called the lateral line – a line that extends along the middle of the shark’s body from its tail to its head. This line, which is found in all fish, is made of cells that can perceive vibrations in the water. Sharks can detect both the direction and amount of movement made by prey, even from as far as 820 feet (250 meters) away.