The Loh Down On Science

Thresher sharks find a better way to fish

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The waters off Pescador Island, Cebu, Philippines, where some thresher-shark research is based.

Sharks who hunt fish by slapping them?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet the thresher shark.  Its tail is like nothing you’ve seen.  It’s as long as its body, and shaped like a whip!  

Scientists have long suspected the thresher shark uses its tail to hunt.  But how?
Researchers at the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Group in the Philippines recently found out.

They filmed 25 cases of lone threshers hunting sardines.  First threshers swam close to a sardine school.  Then, in just seconds:  Each shark pulled its large pectoral, or side fins, down, halting its forward motion!  This caused its tail end to rise. Picture a car when you hit the brakes hard.

Using this momentum, like a catapult, it whipped its tail over its head!  THWACK!  Nearby sardines?  Stunned or dead.  Hello, lunch!

Why do threshers slap prey instead of, say, hunting it one at a time?  The recordings showed that using overhead tail-slaps netted threshers an average of three sardines per slap.  Highly economical results!

And a perfect fin-ish to this tail.  I mean story.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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