July 11 – Totally Threshed!

Today’s factismal: The thresher shark uses its tail to catch its food.

The thresher shark is the 1959 Cadillac of the animal kingdom. Not only is a thresher shark as long as a Cadillac, but it is fast and maneuverable. But the crowing feature of the thresher shark is the same as that of the Caddy; an enormous tail fin. But where the Caddy had a discrete little tail fin, the thresher’s tail fin is as long as its body!

A thresher shark with its unique tail fin (Image courtesy Dive Report)

A thresher shark with its unique tail fin
(Image courtesy Dive Report)

The Caddy had the tail fin for two reasons: to help with its aerodynamics and to make it look good. The thresher shark has that beat, as there are three reasons for the shark’s brobdignagian tail fin: to help with hydrodynamics, to make it look good to other sharks, and the help it catch food. That last is important because, like all sharks (and most Caddys), the thresher likes to eat. A lot. But the thresher has evolved a unique way of catching its prey.

A thresher shark leaping out of the water (Image courtesy Daily Telegraph)

A thresher shark leaping out of the water
(Image courtesy Scott Sheehan)

The thresher will leap out of the water, breaching like a dolphin, and twist and turn on its way back in. As the tail comes close, it will slap the water and create a shockwave that stuns nearby fish long enough for the thresher to snarf them down. Even without the aerial ballet, the thresher shark’s long tail fin can crack like a whip and knock nearby fish for a loop.

But those long fins have made the thresher shark popular as food, as well. As a result, they are now much rarer than they used to be. And that means that the researchers need you help in finding them (and other sharks). If you’ve seen a shark lately, or just want to learn more about sharks, then head over the the Shark Trust and tell them about your close encounter of the Jaws kind!

One thought on “July 11 – Totally Threshed!

  1. Pingback: July 8 – Bite me! | Little facts about science

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