Creature Feature: Indiana Jones Shark | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Creature Feature: Indiana Jones Shark

Named due to its large whip-like tail, and tactical hunting techniques, this shark exhibits a range of interesting behaviours. Ellen Daugherty reports

The thresher shark has been nicknamed after the fictional archeologist due to its impressively long tail that imitates a whip while its hunting prey. It uses its tail to first herd, and then stun schooling fish, such as sardines, before feeding on them. It is thought that this behaviour evolved due to the thresher shark having small teeth and a relatively weak jaw, thus ensuring it is still an effective predator.

To get 'cleaned' the thresher sharks have to go to cleaning stations, much like the car wash in Shark Tale...

To prevent gill filament infections that can cause difficulty in breathing, thresher sharks have to stay clean. They do this by a symbiotic relationship with small parasites, called copepods. To get "cleaned" the thresher sharks have to go to cleaning stations, much like the car wash in Shark Tale, and get their gill filaments and teeth scrubbed of bacteria by the parasites. Although sounding like a bit of a bizarre encounter, the sharks do get cleaned, and the parasites get a nutrition source, making it mutually beneficial for both parties.

Thresher sharks exhibit another interesting behaviour as, unlike most other sharks, they breach the surface, much like whales and dolphins. This is when they leap out of the water and make a full turn before splashing back down. It is unclear why they do this, but whales and dolphins use this behaviour to breathe. It is also thought dolphins might do this behaviour as a form of play, maybe so do the thresher sharks?

They hunt the same large schools of fish that are usually targeted by industrial fishing boats, meaning they are often in the wrong place at the wrong time...
However, it is their very unique hunting technique that puts the thresher shark in serious trouble when it comes into contact with commercial fishing. They hunt the same large schools of fish that are usually targeted by industrial fishing boats, meaning they are often in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their tails get caught in the giant fishing nets, so they are pulled up with the rest of the school accidentally. This is nothing to do with the sharks hunting technique, but our problem with overfishing and not taking enough precautions to ensure large-scale fishing is safe for other organisms in the ocean.

The population decline in this species is also due to the illegal shark fin trade, that is popular in Asian markets for meat and Chinese medicine. All of this hunting has caused these sharks to be labelled as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

21 year old studying Biological Sciences, Science & Tech online editor. Especially interested in anything to do with zoology or anthropology, and an aspiration to be the next David Attenborough.



Published

11th November 2016 at 4:26 pm



Images from

Rafn Ingi Finnsson



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