To see photographs of the Pelagic Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus) click here.
Pelagic Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus)
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Taxonomic name: Alopias pelagicus
Other Common Names: Fox shark, Small tooth thresher shark, Whiptail shark, Zorro de mar.
All three species of thresher shark are found in Australian waters. They
are basically grey but tinted with a beautiful metallic sheen of blue,
purple or violet. Their most notable feature is their tails; these take
up half their body length.
The three species of thresher shark live in different habitats. The Bigeye
Thresher Shark (Alopius superciliosus), which grows to 460 cm, dwells
at depths as great as 500 m in the open ocean. Its large eyes are situated
near the top of its head so that it can easily spot overhead schools of
fish or squid silhouetted against the surface light.
The Common Thresher Shark (Alopius vulpinus) is often caught close to
shore but this shy animal is rarely seen by divers. With a maximum body
length of 550 cm and a small mouth only suited to feeding on small fish,
it is considered harmless but anglers rightly respect the tail of a caught
specimen as a well- placed swipe can break bones. The Pelagic Thresher
Shark (Alopius pelagicus) lives far off shore in tropical waters. It has
a shorter dorsal fin and more slender body shape than the other thresher
species, growing to just 350cm.
The name 'thresher' comes from their method of hunting schooling fish.
Using their long tail, they herd small baitfish or squid into a tight
ball; then charge through the school or stun the fish with a swipe of
the tail. The vertebrae at the tip of the tail are enlarged slightly to
give extra weight to the blow. During the summer months thresher sharks
are often sighted leaping above the surface as they feed.