The Largest Accurately Measured Great White

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The Top 10 Largest Sharks


Counting down the 10 largest sharks is a tricky endeavor. Outside of the two largest known shark species, there is no consensus on how to rank the largest living sharks. As new measurements continue to be reported and the experts squabble over which to accept and which to toss back, we present our humble list of the world’s top 10 largest shark species.


Tiger sharks tend to measure in the 10 to 14 foot range, with some exceptional individuals approaching 15 feet. The largest tiger shark ever recorded was at least 17, perhaps 18 feet long. Some claim that even larger tiger sharks are out there.


As of 2015, only around 60 megamouth sharks have ever been caught or sighted. Of these, most of the adults encountered have measured in the 13 to 16 foot range, but scientists think these gentle filter feeders can grow at least 17 to 18 feet in length.


The mysterious goblin shark usually measures 10 to 13 feet in length, but in 2000 an enormous female was captured. She measured at least 18 feet in length, proving that goblin sharks can grow far larger than anyone had previously suspected.

Appears in "The Goblin Shark"


It's all in the tail! The common thresher is a large shark by anyone's measure, but factoring in its elongated caudal fin – which accounts for half of the shark's length – it's among the longest in the ocean. These sharks commonly reach 16 feet in length, with the largest confirmed at 19 feet.


There are many types of hammerhead sharks (eight species in total) but only one great hammerhead. While these giants typically measure 10 to 13 feet in length, a few have grown much larger. The largest great hammerhead on record was a whopping 20 feet in length.


It's up for debate whether the Greenland shark is larger than the great white, but so far lengths above 20 to 21 feet are based solely on observation, not accurate scientific measurement. Most Greenland sharks, which live farther north than any other shark species, measure in the 8 to 15 foot range.


The Pacific sleeper shark may be larger than the Greenland shark, and could even be bigger than the great white. But for now, this is speculation – lengths above 20 to 21 feet are based solely on observation. Most Pacific sleepers measure 12 to 14 feet in length.


Speaking of speculation, few sharks are the subject of more tall tales than the great white. To set the record straight, the largest accurately measured was caught off Prince Edward Island in 1988. She was 20 feet in length. But some scientists accept the 21-foot measurement for a great white caught off Cuba in 1945. The common size range is 11 to 16 feet.


While there may be some jockeying for the number three spot, there’s no doubt that the basking shark is the second largest living shark. With an average length of 22 to 29 feet, even your everyday basking shark is truly enormous. The largest on record measured 40 feet in length. But there’s no need to panic – this gentle giant is a plankton eater.


Not only is the whale shark the largest living shark, it’s also the largest living fish period. A typical whale shark measures 18 to 32.5 feet in length. The largest on record, caught off Pakistan in 1947, was 41.5 feet in length. It weighed 28 tons – around 4 times larger than a large male elephant!

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Was “El Monstruo” Actually the Largest Great White Ever?

In 1945, an enormous white shark was caught off Cojimar, a fishing village east of Havana, Cuba. In a widely distributed photo of the shark, the entire village seems to have come out for the event. Several adults are seen in the background, while kids sit on the shark carcass, legs dangling over the side. The shark was named “El Monstruo,” meaning “the monster.”

When measured, the shark was found to be in excess of 21 feet and weighed over 7,000 pounds, which would make it the largest great white shark on record. But not all scientists trust the measurements taken that day, and the true size and weight of El Monstruo have been debated ever since.

Fishermen notoriously exaggerate the size of their catches, and so it holds that fishy stories have accompanied infamous shark landings over the years. Later analysis of the photo by experts, such as R. Aidan Martin of the ReefQuest Center for Shark Research, suggests that El Monstruo fell short of its stated size. Martin instead concluded it measured around 16 feet in length, with a weight that’s hard to determine just based on a single photo.

For comparison, experts mainly agree that 20 feet is the more common maximum size for a great white, with these larger individuals weighing around 4,200 pounds. Females tend to be larger than males, so they can fall into the 20-footer group. The majority of great whites, however, measure between 13 and 16 feet with an average weight of 1,500 to 2,450 pounds.

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