August is all about sharks at S.E.A. Aquarium.
Today, we have a guest blog post on this majestic and often-misunderstood animal.
By Keith Leow Ewing (SMUX Diving Team)
To the layman, most sharks are seen as creatures which hunt using its super sensitive electro-sensory system, strong sense of “smell” to spot its prey and powerful body to dart forward and clamp its jaws over unsuspecting prey.
This general perception exists because the variety of sharks the public has been exposed to through movies, newspaper reports or even popular documentaries is very limited.
If asked to name a species of shark that first comes to mind, most people would immediately say “Great White Shark” or even “Hammerhead Shark”. More experienced people such as divers or surfers would be able to only give a few more such as Black Tip Sharks, Sand Tiger Shark, Tiger Shark, or the Bull Shark.
However, the truth is that there are more than 440 species of sharks currently inhabiting our oceans.
The elusive Thresher Shark
If you look deeper, you’d be surprised that some sharks are wildly different from their cousins. One example of this is the Thresher Shark.
You’re probably thinking, “Gee, that’s a pretty long tail.” And you are not wrong, the largest thresher sharks grow up to 6.1 metres in length and weigh in around 500 kilograms with half of total length is made up of its long caudal fin.
Its long fin, however, is not just for display as it’s the shark’s primary and unique tool for hunting. Check out how this video on how they hunt using their tail:
These Thresher Sharks have taken the POKÉMON move “Tail Whip” to a whole new level.
The Thresher accelerates towards a ball of fish and brakes sharply by twisting its large pectoral fins. It lowers its snout, pitches its whole body forward, and flexes the base of its tail. This slings the tail tip over its head like a trebuchet, with an average speed of 30 miles per hour.
The fastest Thresher Shark managed to whip its tail at an astonishing top speed of 80 miles per hour. With each whip of its tail, this highly efficient hunter is able to stun three to seven fishes for it to easily pick up.
However, not much is known about this unique species of sharks, specifically Pelagic Thresher (Alopias pelagicus), due to them being solitary creatures and generally avoiding areas with high human concentrations, for example, tourist dive sites. Therefore not many studies can be conducted on them.
Fortunately, it is known that this species of sharks likes to frequent the cleaning stations on the Monad Shoal at Malapascua, Philippines. This presents a good opportunity for researchers to conduct observations on these beautiful creatures.
Hopefully, this article has expanded, or even piqued your interest into finding out more about the wide variety of sharks swimming in the seas and given you greater insight into how much of our own oceans that we have little exposure to.
Should you feel that this article has helped you in any way what so ever. Please check out The SMUX Diving Team on Facebook for updates.
This article was written by Keith Leow Ewing, Conservation I/C for SMUX Diving Team 8th Executive Committee at Singapore Management University.
Here are more interesting facts about sharks