The Thresher Shark
This incredible ‘little’ shark is quite extraordinary. What makes it unique is the evolution of its tail fin, into a killing machine. We are extremely blessed to have sighted one on one of our trips out with African Shark Eco-Charter’s this season. Following on from the last blog, False Bay offers an array of shark life, and included in this list is the Thresher.
This Shark is also known as the Fox Shark, obviously due to its over-sized tail fin (Caudal Fin), which actually usually grows up to the entire length of the Sharks body!
Typically there are three types of Thresher Sharks:
1) Pelagic Thresher
2) Bigeye Thresher
3) Common Thresher
However scientist are almost convinced there is a fourth species, yet this is still a mystery, as with most facts regarding sharks, and only time will tell if a fourth species is to be confirmed. When we look at the origin of this shark, we are surrounded by yet again more mystery, but the closest known relative of the Thresher, is said to be the Megamouth Shark. This makes the Shark even more unique and unusual.
Reaching maturity between the ages of 8 and 13 years, these sharks have been known to live to around 22 years, although again, scientists believe they can live much longer than that, it just has not yet been verified.
So let’s talk about what makes this shark so unique and special, apart from the mystery that surrounds it.
Firstly, as with all sharks their amazing adaptions to their environment continue to astound us, especially the sensory features. This shark has a very special ability, called the ‘heat exchanger system’. They are called endoderm’s, meaning they have thermoregulation, producing heat through either enhancing their metabolism or through muscle shivering. This ability is naturally on top of the regular electro impulses that allow them to detect other living creatures though electrical impulse.
Secondly, their true uniqueness derives from the tail fin. Thresher Sharks use a hunting technique known as Tail Slapping! It is a highly evolved technique that allows them to stun, smack, or kill up to 7 fish at a time. The elongated tail fin moves in deadly motion, attacking large schools of Fish in one swift smack, either stunning, or killing the prey. This saves the shark, both time and energy whilst hunting.
So next time you are on the water, and think you might have spotted a Thresher Shark, keep a close eye on the way they hunt, if you are lucky you will see them breach as well.