Much about the mating behavior of great white sharks is still unknown. Some scientists believe that scarred individuals suggest male-male aggression or that a male’s gentle biting of females may precede mating. Bite marks observed on the dorsum, flanks, and particularly the pectoral fins of mature female great whites have been interpreted as the results of mating. It is most likely that the male bites the female during copulation. Great white sharks have also been known to propel two-thirds of their body out of the water and land flat against the surface, causing a large splash. This behavior is called a "pattern breach". This behavior might be used to attract a mate during courtship. Mating has yet to be fully documented in great white sharks, but it is assumed to be similar to internal fertilization in most sharks, where the male inserts his claspers into the cloaca of the female. Courtship behavior, if there is any, is unknown. ("MarineBio", 2009; Long, 2009; Shark Information - Fresh Development and Image Nation, 2009)
Mating System: Polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Reproduction is ovoviviparous, that is, fertilized eggs are retained within the body and develop there. Prior to birth, the young in the womb may feed on undeveloped eggs and possibly their unborn siblings. Litters consist of 2 to 10 pups. Newborns are more than 1 meter (about 3 feet) in length. Gestation is thought to take about 12 months, and females are assumed to give birth in warm temperate and subtropical waters, but specific nursery areas are unknown. Females give birth to live young, unlike many other sharks who lay eggs. It is possible that individual females only reproduce biannually, mating soon after giving birth, but this remains to be confirmed. Male great white sharks reach sexual maturity at 3.5 to 4 meters (about 11.5 to 13 feet) in length and about 10 years of age, whereas females reach sexual maturity at 4.5 to 5 meters (about 15 to 16 feet) in length and 12 to 18 years of age. (Dale, 2008; Shark Information - Fresh Development and Image Nation, 2009)
Key Reproductive Features: Iteroparous; Gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); Sexual; Fertilization; Fertilization :: Internal; Ovoviviparous
Female sharks may breed every two years.
The breeding season is unknown.
Newborns get no help from their mothers after birth. As soon as they are born they swim away and are independent. A newborn is about 1.2 m long and grows 25 cm each year, reaching maturity at 10 years (Dale, 2008). Offspring are capable predators the moment they are born. (Dale, 2008)
Parental Investment: No parental involvement; Pre-fertilization; Pre-fertilization :: Provisioning; Pre-fertilization :: Protecting; Pre-fertilization :: Protecting :: Female; Pre-hatching/birth; Pre-hatching/birth :: Provisioning; Pre-hatching/birth :: Provisioning :: Female; Pre-hatching/birth :: Protecting; Pre-hatching/birth :: Protecting :: Female