How Do Great White Sharks Communicate?

Great white sharks are solitary animals, but they have been observed traveling in pairs and communicating through body language that includes stiff and arched bodies, open mouths, swimming patterns, breaching and tail slaps. Sharks are careful to preserve space between themselves, and the majority of communication revolves around discouraging others from coming too close or interfering with prey.

Most communication between great white sharks is aggressive, often sparked by the struggle to maintain control over prey and warn away the other opportunistic sharks looking for a chance to feed. These fights are thought to be the reason sharks rarely attack and kill prey larger than themselves. Smaller prey is helpful in avoiding unnecessary confrontation.

It has been hypothesized that sharks can hear vibrations in the water at frequencies too low for the human ear to detect. Males communicate with females, but they do not emit sounds as whales and dolphins do. Aggression between males and females has been observed, with males frequently biting females on the back to hold them in place.

Sharks do not care for their young, so little to no communication between parents and offspring has been observed. Difficulties in studying communication between sharks stem from their failure to thrive in captivity as well as their rapidly dwindling population size.