Thresher shark leaping from the water

Thresher shark ©Rob Hughes, Devon Sea Safari

Thresher shark

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Scientific name: Alopias vulpinus
The thresher shark is a migratory species and passes through UK waters in the summer months. If you’re lucky, you might see this magnificent shark jump high out of the water in to the air.

Top facts


Length: Up to 450 cm
Weight: Up to 340 kg
Average Lifespan: They live for up to 22 years.

Conservation status

The thresher shark is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.

When to see

Present in the summer months


The thresher shark spends most of its time in the deep waters of the open sea, rarely straying into coastal areas. To survive in these colder waters, they have evolved to be endothermic. This means that they can keep their body temperature higher than the temperature of the surrounding water. They do this through a specialised heat exchange system, which allows them to conserve heat produced through internal body mechanisms such as metabolism or muscle shivering.

What to look for

A large shark, with the "classic shark shape" - a torpedo-shaped body, large dorsal fin and large pectoral fins. The thresher shark is easily told from other sharks by the long upper lobe of the tail, which can be as long as the shark's body.

Where to find

Found in tropical and temperate seas around the world, including the UK.

Did you know?

Thresher sharks use their extremely long tail to hunt. They herd smaller fish into tight shoals, swim at them and thrash their tail like a whip, stunning some of the fish and making them easy to catch.