How a shark attacks

The anatomy of a great white shark attack…

A shark stalks its prey

There’s no slipping past a shark when it has six finely tuned senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste and electromagnetism. It prowls the water from a depth of 7 to 30 metres (23 to 98 feet) to go unnoticed. The sunlight shining from the surface shows the prey’s silhouette, but the particles in the water scatter light, hiding the shark from view.

Shark attack

When the shark decides it’s time to strike, it launches a vertical attack through the water. This keeps its profile to a minimum and enables it to dive in whichever direction the prey tries to flee. It can reach speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour (25 miles per hour).

How a shark eats its prey

The shark will aim to capture the seal in its jaws, where the bottom teeth will pin it in position and the top set will saw through the flesh in a bid to badly injure or even kill the prey in one go. If the seal manages to escape, the shark will pursue it along the surface.

‘Bitesize’ facts

A shark’s jaws are not connected to the skull, enabling them to thrust forward when the prey is within reach.
Seals can cause damage to sharks’ eyes, so they will roll them back into their head when attacking, to prevent them from losing their sight.
A great white can smell a seal colony from 2 miles away

Learn more about the great white shark

Find out more about the incredible great white shark in our special feature in issue 1 of World of Animals, available as a digital download here:

great white shark

Shark image from