You don't become the subject of a movie like "Jaws" without being dangerous in real life as well. Indeed, the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) leads all other sharks in attacks on people and boats, as well as fatalities. Currently, the great white shark has been connected with a total of 403 attacks, including 247 unprovoked attacks and 65 fatalities [source: ISAF].
In 2001, "Jaws" author Peter Benchley claimed that he couldn't have written the book in this day and age, knowing what he knows now about great white sharks [source: McCarthy]. The great white is just not the mindless killing machine that was depicted on the silver screen. This shark is extremely curious, though, and may bite humans to determine if they would make a good meal. They generally don't return for seconds, though, because a human simply isn't a very good meal for them. These sharks much prefer the fatty blubber of seals and sea lions.
While some scientists say that surfers on their boards may look like seals from below, it may just be a youthful mistake. Some researchers think that the sharks mistaking surfers for seals are the juveniles of the species, who are in the first stages of adding seals and sea lions to their diet [source: McCarthy].
Whether it's mistaken identity or not will certainly matter very little to the poor person who does get trapped in these infamous jaws. As for being a "taste bite," the great white takes a pretty big taste, as it's able to consume 20 to 30 pounds (9 to 14 kilograms) of flesh with each bite, with the force of each bite measuring over 1 ton per square inch [source: Dingerkus]. With one bite like that, death can occur from bleeding to death or internal organ damage.
Most swimmers needn't worry about running into a great white shark though; they usually stay in deep waters and are fairly rare. But that elusiveness serves to make them even more frightening to some.
To learn more about sharks, dangerous and otherwise, have a look at the links on the next page.