Shark nurseries are essential habitats for shark survival. Notwithstanding the rich fossil record of the modern great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias, GWS), its use of nursery areas in the fossil record has never been assessed before. Here, we analysed the fossil record of the GWS from three South American Pliocene localities, assessed body size distributions and applied previously established criteria to identify palaeo-nurseries. We found that juveniles dominate the Coquimbo locality (Chile), whereas subadults and adults characterize Pisco (Peru) and Caldera (Chile), respectively. These results, summed to the paleontological and paleoenvironmental record of the region, suggest that Coquimbo represents the first nursery area for the GWS in the fossil record. Our findings demonstrate that one of the top predators in today’s oceans has used nursery areas for millions of years, highlighting their importance as essential habitats for shark survival in deep time.