Are you ready to learn a few thresher shark facts? There are several to share about this popular type of shark. The most notable feature of thresher shark is the long, whip-like upper lobe of their tail, which is known as the caudal fin. In total, there are three species of thresher sharks: The common thresher (Alopias vulpinus), pelagic thresher (Alopias pelagicus) and the bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosus).
What a Thresher Shark Looks Like
Thresher sharks have big eyes, a small mouth, large pectoral fins, first dorsal fin, and pelvic fins. They have a small second dorsal fin (near their tail) and anal fins. Their most noticeable characteristic, as noted above, is that the top lobe of their tail is unusually long and whip-like. This tail may be used to herd and stun small fish, upon which it preys.
Depending on the species, thresher sharks may be gray, blue, brown, or purplish. They have light gray to white coloring below their pectoral fins. They can grow to a maximum of about 20 feet in length. These sharks are sometimes seen jumping out of the water and may be confused with other marine mammals.
Classifying the Thresher Shark
Here is how the thresher shark is scientifically classified:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Chondrichthyes
- Subclass: Elasmobranchii
- Order: Lamniformes
- Family: Alopiidae
- Genus: Alopias
- Species: vulpinus, pelagicus or superciliosus
More Thresher Shark Facts
A few more fun facts about thresher sharks include the following:
- Thresher sharks are widely distributed across the world's temperate and subtropical oceans.
- Thresher sharks eat schooling fish, cephalopods, and sometimes crabs and shrimp.
- Thresher sharks reproduce each year and are ovoviviparous, meaning that eggs develop inside the mother's body, but the young are not attached by a placenta. The embryos feed on eggs in the uterus. After nine months of gestation, females give birth to two to seven live young who are three to five feet long at birth.
- According to the International Shark Attack File, thresher sharks are not commonly involved in shark attacks.
- NOAA estimates that populations of Pacific thresher sharks are above target levels, but lists the status of common threshers in the Atlantic as unknown.
- Thresher sharks may be caught as bycatch and hunted recreationally.
- According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, thresher shark meat and fins are valuable, their skin can be made into leather and the oil in their liver can be used for vitamins.
- Compagno, L., Dando, M. and S. Fowler. 2005. Sharks of the World. Princeton University Press.
- Jordan, Vaness. Thresher Shark (Online). Florida Museum of Natural History Icthyology Department. Accessed August 8, 2011.
- NOAA. 2011. FishWatch: Atlantic Common Thresher Shark (Online). NOAA. Accessed August 8, 2011.
- NOAA. 2011. FishWatch: Pacific Common Thresher Shark (Online). NOAA. Accessed August 8, 2011.
- World Register of Marine Species. 2011. Thresher Shark Species List. Accessed August 8, 2011.