This week we bring you all you need to know about the common thresher shark:

Species: Alopias vulpinus

Class: Chondrichthyes

Status: IUCN Vulnerable

Diet: Mainly small bait fish: Anchovies, herring, mackerel, Pacific hake, lancetfish, lanternfishes, Pacific salmon, squids, octopus, pelagic crabs and shrimp

Size: Up to 610 centimetres

Behaviour: Common thresher sharks are solitary and extremely athletic and can slay prey with their huge tails. They are famous for the incredible heights they reach when breaching out of the water

Distribution: They are found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and in the Mediterranean

Ecosystem: While found both in coastal and oceanic waters, it is most abundant in waters up to 60 or 70 kilometres offshore. It ranges between surface waters and 366 metres depth 

5 fast facts: 

  • The thresher’s tail is so large that it accounts for 33 percent of the shark’s total body weight, meaning that the tail alone may weigh over 300 kilograms
  • Part of the thresher shark’s hunting technique is to stir a whirlpool around a school of fish to trap them. The terrified fish huddle together, making them a perfectly concentrated meal for the shark
  • There is a special phenomenon called “oophagy” that occurs in the thresher shark’s womb; it is where the pups actually leave their eggs, still in the womb, and feed themselves with all the unfertilised eggs
  • Their flesh is highly prized for human consumption, and their fins are sought after for shark fin soup, and skin can be used for leather and the liver is used for vitamin rich oil
  • Depending on the species, thresher sharks may be grey, blue, brown or purplish above and light gray to white below their pectoral fins