Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Common Thresher Shark

Alopias vulpinus


Fun Facts

    The common thresher shark uses its long tail in a whip-like fashion to deliver incapacitating blows to its prey.

    About half of the total length of the common thresher shark consists of the elongated upper lobe of its caudal fin.




The common thresher shark is the largest species of thresher shark. Common thresher sharks live in the open ocean and occur near the surface down to depths of 366 meters (1,200 feet) worldwide. The body is silvery-blue above and white below, with white patches extending above the pectoral and pelvic fin bases. The robust body is torpedo-shaped and the head is short and broad. The eyes are moderately large and the first dorsal fin is tall and positioned slightly closer to the pectoral fins than the pelvic fins. The upper caudal fin lobe is elongated, a characteristic of threshers, measuring about as long as the rest of the shark. Common thresher sharks can grow up to 5.7 meters (19 feet) long.

Common thresher sharks feed primarily on bony fishes, such as anchovies, herring, hake, mackerel and sardines, as well as pelagic red crabs and squid. Females give birth to live young with litters ranging from two to four young. Birth takes place in the spring from March to June. Males become mature at about five years and females at about seven years. Common thresher sharks can have a life span of 15 years.

The common thresher shark became the target of an intense commercial fishery in the late 1970s, peaking in 1982. The fishery collapsed thereafter and they are now mainly pursued by sport fishermen off California. The common thresher shark is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

To learn more about common thresher sharks and their relatives, visit the Sharks & Rays Room at the Aquarium.