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Thresher Sharks Use Tails as Weapons to Stun Prey [VIDEO]

First Posted: Jul 11, 2013 07:09 AM EDT
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A rare footage reveals the unique hunting skill of thresher sharks. The film depicts how the predator thresher sharks use their impressive tails as weapons to stun preys.

A new study reveals that thresher sharks use their long tails to stun prey. Simon Oliver of the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project along with his team mates monitored the hunting skill of the thresher sharks off the Pescador Island in the Philippines. This unique hunting style of the thresher sharks was recorded using handheld cameras at a depth of 10-25 meters.

                                 

"This is a vulnerable species and if we understand how they use their habitats, we can go about managing and protecting them more effectively," said Oliver, who is also a researcher based at University of Liverpool, to  Guardian.

The video shows how the thresher shark increases its speed while approaching a dense shoal of fish and suddenly pulls in its pectoral fins and raises its tail over the head and slaps the fish. The slaps are so intense that they give rise to bubbles, reports Planet Earth.

One of the quickest slaps made by the thresher shark with its tail was at the speed of 48 miles per hour.

These strikes were filmed by Klemens Gann who is an underwater videographer as well as a diving instructor. Both males and females use their tails as a weapon to slap their prey. The team successfully captured 25 instances of the thresher shark attacking the shoals of sardines recorded between June-October 2010.

Out of the 25 instances captured, in 22 attacks the sharks whipped their tails over their heads to slap the prey and in the rest they whipped their tails sideways.

"The interesting thing about it was that these tail slaps were only successful about 60% of the time," said Dr. Oliver, "but when they were successful they managed to kill more than one prey item. So it seems the strategy is efficient in that the shark is able to consume more than one fish at a time to balance out the times when it wasn't successful."

This study was published in PLOS One.

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