While on a whale monitoring expedition off the coast of Hermanus in South Africa yesterday, SA Shark Conservancy student Serena Kelly managed to capture some awesome photos of a common thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus) leaping out of the water. This is only the second time that SA Shark Conservancy researchers have witnessed breaching behaviour in this species.

Thresher Shark Breaching 2015 08 28
Thresher Shark Breaching Close Up 2015 08 28

Thresher sharks (also known by a variety of other names, like "fox sharks", "slashers" and our personal favourite, "swingletails") are one of the few shark species that are known to launch themselves completely out of the water, turning in the air much like dolphins do. More often seen in great whites, this breaching behaviour is associated with hunting and may be used to startle and incapacitate the bony fishes that make up the majority of the threshers' diet. These sharks will also use their impressive tails like a whip to strike and stun their prey. 

Although some video footage has been captured of thresher sharks breaching (mostly while trying to free themselves from fishing lines), reports of leaping threshers are rare. 

White Shark Breach Related Content 2015 08 28

Header image: Maxime Guilbot