Evolutionary History

Great White Sharks are in the family Lamnidae (Mackeral Sharks) along with the Salmon Shark, Porbeagle, and Shortfin and Longfin Mako. One of the Great White Sharks closest evolutionary cousins is Megalodon. Megalodon is one of the largest most formidable sharks of all time. At a length of approximately 52 feet and weight of 48 tons Megalodon was a massive predator. Other then modern sharks recent relatives however, shark phylogeny is a highly debated area. Being cartilaginous fish it is rare to have more then the teeth survive to be fossilized. While the teeth have provided a wealth of information only so much can be gained from them. The orders of sharks have many distinguishing features which can not be identified from teeth and with the lack of larger preserved remains it is very hard to sort out the evolutionary history of sharks. What is known is that Lamnoids have undergone bursts of rapid evolution and periods of evolutionary stability. Many efforts have been made to further clarify the evolutionary relationships of sharks and rays including research with mitochondrial DNA.

see ReefQuest in References

Modern shark orders and their defining characteristics.

see Shark Foundation in References

Breaching in Another Shark Species

Another Lamniform/Lamniod, the Basking Shark (family cetorhinidae), is a close relative of the White Shark that also exhibits breaching behavior, but in a social context as opposed to during hunting (basking Sharks are filter feeders). It has been hypothesized that breaching is part of courtship display or male competition over mates. Great White Sharks have also been observed to breach during the mating season, possibly as a method of communication. Breaching during hunting may have evolved from the social behavior, or from pre-existing hunting strategies. Unfortunately, little research has been done on the subject of the evolutionary deveopment of breaching. This could be due to the uncertainties in shark phylogeny.