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White Shark


White Shark Embryo

shark embryo
photograph courtesy Malcolm Francis
This 1449 mm (= 4 ft. 9 in.) total length female white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) embryo was one of seven full-term "pups" found in a 5.36 m (17 ft. 7 in.) pregnant female captured at North Cape, New Zealand on November 13, 1991. The very distended belly is characteristic of embryonic sharks that engage in oophagy, the practice of eating their mother's eggs while in the uterus. Oophagy occurs in lamnoid sharks - the white, mako, and sandtiger sharks and their kin. For an overview of shark reproduction see the IUCN/SSC Shark Specialist Group web page Shark Conservation in the Western North Atlantic

For more information on the embryo illustrated above, see Dr. Francis' review of white shark reproduction listed below:

Francis, M.P. 1997. Reproductive Strategy of White Sharks, Carcharodon carcharias, pp. 8-9. Shark News 9, June Newsleteter of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group.

Francis, M.P. 1996. Observations on a pregnant white shark with a review of reproductive biology, pp. 157-172. In: Klimley, A.P. and D.G. Ainley (eds.), Great White Sharks: The Biology of Carcharodon carcharias, Academic Press, San Diego.

Two other fine contributions to our knowledge of white shark reproduction appear in the same volume:

Pratt, H.L. 1996. Reproduction in the male white shark, pp. 131-138. In: Klimley, A. P. and D. G. Ainley (eds.), Great White Sharks: The Biology of Carcharodon carcharias, Academic Press, San Diego.

Uchida, S., M. Toda, K. Teshima, and K. Yano. 1996. Pregnant white sharks and full-term embryos from Japan, pp. 139-155. In: Klimley, A. P. and D. G. Ainley (eds.), Great White Sharks: The Biology of Carcharodon carcharias, Academic Press, San Diego.