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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Alopiidae (thresher sharks)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates).Chondrichthyes > Elasmobranchii > Galeomorphii > Lamniformes

These active, large-eyed, pelagic sharks have small mouths, minute second dorsal and anal fins, and curved caudal fins as long as their bodies that are used like whips to herd and stun their prey. 3 species, all in the area.

Species in Southern Africa

Alopias pelagicus (Smalltooth thresher)

A thresher with moderately large eyes, broadly convex forehead, very narrow caudal tip, and straight, broad-tipped pectoral fins. Colour brilliant dark blue on back and sides (fading to grey-black after death), underside white, no white patch over bases of pectoral fins

Alopias superciliosus (Bigeye thresher)

A huge-eyed thresher with an indented forehead, broad-tipped curved pectoral fins, broad caudal tip, and 1st dorsal fin more rearwards than other threshers. Colour dark purplish brown to greyish brown with metalic hues above, somewhat lighter below, no light patch above pectoral bases.

Alopias vulpinus (Thresher shark)

A thresher with relatively small eyes, curved, narrow-tipped pectoral fins, a narrow-tipped caudal fin, and a conspicuous white patch over the pectoral fin bases. Colour brown to blue or green above, white below

Text by Leonard J.V. Compagno, David A. Ebert and Malcolm J. Smale