Fact Check

Photo Does Not Show Baby Great White Shark

A photograph showing a "baby great white shark" actually shows a salmon shark.

Published Jan 14, 2016

A photograph shows a baby great white shark.

Great white sharks are known for their ferocious appearance but according to the above-displayed viral image, baby great whites are actually kind of cuddly.

In January 2016, the above-displayed photo was posted to various social media sites along with the claim that it showed a baby great white shark. While the animal featured in the photo does resemble a great white, according to marine biologist Alan Holyoak, this is actually a salmon shark.

On 28 August 2012, Holyoak and his wife found the stranded salmon shark on a beach in Oregon. The marine biologist wrote about the experience on his blog and posted several additional photos of the animal:

salmon shark

At first glance I didn't know exactly what kind of shark this was, but I'd narrowed it down to one of three species: White, Porbeagle (a.k.a. Mackerel), or Salmon shark.  These sharks all belong to Family Lamnidae and have geographic ranges that include the Oregon coast.  Oh, FYI, this family also includes Mako sharks, but this is clearly not one of those!...

... I decided that it was probably either a Salmon or Porbeagle shark because the coloration and teeth didn't look right for a white shark of this size.  Juvenile white sharks are much more common along the southern California coast than they are in Oregon, and young whites tend to have a silvery color along their flanks rather than this clearly distinct dark above and white below color pattern you can see in the photo above...

... Later, after this experience was all over and we were back in our room, I did some checking and this was definitely a juvenile salmon shark, Lamna ditrops.

Salmon sharks and great white sharks do have a similar appearance, but the Lamna ditrops doesn't compare in size to the great white. Adult salmon sharks can grow as big as 10 feet long but the average size is about 7 feet. According to National Geographic, great whites are nearly twice that size, with some specimens recorded at more than 20 feet in length.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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