With an elongated upper lobe of its caudal fin, the thresher shark is one of the most striking of all sharks. I guess that descriptor could be taken figuratively and literally as it has been shown that the thresher shark uses its tail to swat and stun its prey.
Making the media rounds right now is a remarkable series of still photographs taken by marine researcher Scott Sheehan of a thresher shark leaping from the water in Jervis Bay, Australia. Possibly feeding on yellowtail baitfish, the shark leaped from the water and was first thought to be a dolphin. Sheehan readied his camera for a possible second leap and the shark did not disappoint, allowing the researcher to take a rapid series of shots.
It is perhaps unusual behavior - or at least a rare occurrence - for a thresher shark to go airborne, but mako sharks have been seen taking large leaps and then, of course, there are the powerful images of great white sharks breaching as they ambush seals from underneath.
If you look at the complete series of photos, you can see the thresher sharks long tail curled - most likely snapping from side-to-side as it first breaks the surface; part of its powerful propelling motion as it moved through the bait fish.
I have reported on thresher sharks before: about video taken showing one using its tail to hunt, highlighting ongoing behavioral research, and citing organizations working to help preserve this shark - listed as "vulnerable to extinction" by the IUCN.
As Sheehan's images show, the thresher shark is a magnificent shark to behold whether in the water or in the air. It is also another important predator and member of a healthy marine community. Not a threat to man, it deserves our respect and protection.
Source: The Daily Telegraph
Photos: Scott Sheehan/Marine Mammal Research