, Volume 92, Issue 5, pp 231–236 | Cite as

Caudal fin allometry in the white shark Carcharodon carcharias: implications for locomotory performance and ecology

  • Theagarten Lingham-SoliarEmail author
Short Communication


Allometric scaling analysis was employed to investigate the consequences of size evolution on hydrodynamic performance and ecology in the white shark Carcharodon carcharias. Discriminant analysis using the power equation y=ax b was negative for caudal fin span (S) versus fork length (FL) in C. carcharias. In contrast in two delphinid species, Delphinus capensis and Tursiops aduncus, the span of the flukes versus fork length rises in positive allometric fashion, and strong positive allometry of S versus √A (area) was also recorded. The latter reflects a high lift/drag ratio. S versus √A in C. carcharias displays negative allometry and consequently a lower lift/drag ratio. A lower aspect ratio (AR) caudal fin in C. carcharias compared to that of the delphinids (mean 3.33 and 4.1, respectively) and other thunniform swimmers provides the potential for better maneuverability and acceleration. The liver in sharks is frequently associated with a buoyancy function and was found to be positively allometric in C. carcharias. The overall findings suggest that the negatively allometric caudal fin morphometrics in C. carcharias are unlikely to have deleterious evolutionary fitness consequences for predation. On the contrary, when considered in the context of positive liver allometry in C. carcharias it is hereby suggested that buoyancy may play a dominant role in larger white sharks in permitting slow swimming while minimizing energy demands needed to prevent sinking. In contrast hydrodynamic lift is considered more important in smaller white sharks. Larger caudal fin spans and higher lift/drag ratio in smaller C. carcharias indicate greater potential for prolonged, intermediate swimming speeds and for feeding predominantly on fast-moving fish, in contrast to slow-swimming search patterns of larger individuals for predominantly large mammalian prey. Such data may provide some answers to the lifestyle and widespread habitat capabilities of this still largely mysterious animal.


Fork Length Swimming Performance White Shark Locomotory Performance Cetacean Species 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to the Director of Natal Sharks Board (NSB) and Geremy Cliff (NSB) for material and data used in the present study. I am particularly grateful for the constructive comments by the three anonymous reviewers that have greatly benefited the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of KwaZulu-Natal (Westville Campus)Durban, KwaZulu-NatalSouth Africa

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