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Thresher Shark

Alopias (Alopiidae)

Average Size – 10 – 20ft
Listed Smallest to Largest:
(Pelagic  -> Bigeye -> Common Thresher)

Thresher Sharks have small heads and snouts with a small mouth. They are most easily identified by their large upper lobe of the caudal fin.  They are dark brown or grey with a white underside. Their tails equal half of their total body length.

Found worldwide in tropical to temperate waters. They prefer pelagic waters but will swim closer to the coast in search of food.

Pelagic schooling fish, such as Bluefish, small Tuna, and Mackerel. They will also eat Squid, Octopus, and Crustaceans.

They are solitary but will sometimes be found in groups of two or three.

When they hunt they are known to “whip” their tail to stun their prey.

Threshers are also one of only a few sharks that will lunge out of the water, this is known as breaching. They take advantage of their long tail to do this by propelling with it out of the water.

Thresher Sharks pose very little threat to humans, the only recorded injuries from threshers is from divers being hit by their enormous tail.

They are hunted by fisherman for sport, and for their fins, meat and oil.

There are 3 Extant Species of Thresher Sharks:
Alopias vulpinus (common thresher)
Alopias pelagicus (pelagic thresher)
Alopias superciliosus (bigeye thresher)

All three species are listed as vulnerable due to their declining numbers.

Interested in more?

By Thomas Alexander - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Movie S3 from Oliver S, Turner J, Gann K, Silvosa M, D’Urban Jackson T (2013). “Thresher Sharks Use Tail-Slaps as a Hunting Strategy“. PLOS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0067380. PMID 23874415. PMC: 3707734.

Common Thresher Shark Header
© ftlaudgirl - Stock.Adobe.Com
Thresher Shark Jumping out of the Water.
By Steve Momot - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,