A keystone species is often a superior predator whose removal allows a prey population to explode and often decreases overall diversity. In this case a great white shark can be considered a key stone species as it’s becoming endangered due to overfishing and accidental catching in gill nets. The great white shark is a species of large mackerel shark which can be found in the coastal surface waters of all major oceans. The scientific name for a great white shark is Carcharodon carcharias where the greek word ‘karcharos’ means sharp, and ‘odous’ means tooth. They are considered a vulnerable species which means they are likely to become endangered. Vulnerability is mainly caused by habitat loss or destruction of their home.
The great white shark is an important species to humans as they keep populations of their prey in check, getting rid of the weak and sick animals to keep the population healthy and clean. If sharks were to go extinct, it would cause a chain reaction which would impact humans and the ocean. For example, a study in Australia found that as shark numbers declined, mid-level predators like snappers increased while herbivorous fish populations shrank (Bergan, 2013).
Great White Sharks typically live within the outskirts of the shore, although they love the coastal areas in all oceans. They even wonder into the deep Ocean and can sometimes be found in depths of 1000 meters or more. You’ll also find sharks in temperature oceans ranging between 12 and 24 degrees C. The great white sharks live off the coasts of North America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile and parts of the Mediterranean.
This particular animal is classified as an apex predator which means that its at the top of the food chain. Because of this, it has no natural predators. One study of marine food webs defined apex predators as those feeding at trophic levels above four (Smith, 2017). Because its at the top of the food chain it doesn’t have many threats within the ocean. Orcas and larger sharks are the only animals that can be a risk to great white sharks. The only other risk is human interaction. This is because they are sometimes caught by accident in fishing nets or intentionally hunted by fisherman.
A shark lives in an aquatic ecosystem that is influenced by several living (biotic) factors. These factors help the shark sustain its position at the top of the food chain. A biotic factor refers to something that is alive therefore, for a great white shark, biotic factors would be its food or the plants around it. This includes fish, turtles, seaweed, algae, plankton and other sharks. For an abiotic factor it is basically any thing that isn’t alive, like rocks, sand, sun, water, salt, oxygen or temperature. These abiotic factors are things that the shark relies on. Sharks rely on the Sun as it produces light which gives them light so they can see better under water. Along with this, It also changes the temperature in the water.
Water is one of the most important abiotic factor as sharks wouldn’t be able to swim without it. Sharks consist of a variety of fish which over time, they fish have co-evolved with the organisms they interact with, building many different relationships. Because sharks are predators, they are forced to interact with a variety of different animals in their habitat.
Sharks are specifically known for being dangerous which is why many people want them dead. This leads to people intentionally harming or killing them. Because of this, several countries have designated conservation zones, banned shark finning, and even listed certain species of shark as “protected species.” Human activities on shark populations has pushed some species of fish towards extinction. Millions of sharks are killed every year just for their fins, and many others are killed as ‘bycatch’ while fishing for other species which is why they are under threat for extinction (Markham, 2012). Because of these human activities, there are some human influence that is helping the sharks by getting their word out by advertising and raising money to save them. Another thing that is influencing the safety of sharks has to do with big media events such as Shark Week which educates the public about sharks. First hand shark experiences are even being offered to the public by some aquariums in hope to give people a shark’s point of view.
Human activities that create pollution, destroy habitats, and reduce sea life populations, all have a negative impact on shark populations. So it is important that conservation efforts are inclusive (Rogers, 2017). Documentation is a big thing in helping change peoples thoughts about sharks and ho dangerous they are. Conservationists and filmmakers have been trying to change the public’s perception of sharks with films such as Sharkwater and the incredibly popular Shark Week programs. Because of all these influencers, sharks are being looked at in a positive way which is helping them survive.
In conclusion, Great white sharks are classified as a key stone species because its becoming extinct due to overfishing and accidental catching in gill nets, among other factors. Because of this, Human influence has been a big part of the sharks survival as they communicate the positives through social media, conservations, fundraisers and documentations.