FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
Black and white drawing:   (click for more)

See tree map  display tree map
  • Squalus vulpes  Gmelin, 1788: 1496. Types unknown according to Eschmeyer (1998:CD-ROM).
  • Alopias macrourus  Rafinesque, 1810:12. Type locality, Sicily. No types.
  • Galeus vulpecula  Rafinesque, 1810:13, equivalent to "Squalus vulpecula di Linnao", which does not exist. Type locality, Sicily. No types.
  • Squalus alopecias  Gronow, 1854:7. No types known, according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
  • Alopecias barrae  Perez Canto, 1886:5. Type locality, Chile. Holotype possibly lost.
  • Alopecias chilensis  Philippi, 1902:310. Type locality, Chile. No types known, according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
  • Vulpecula marina  Garman, 1913:30, pl. 7, fig. 1. Holotype: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard, MCZ 1166-S (Eschmeyer, 1998:CD-ROM), juvenile 1 321/1 346 mm long (52 or 53 in) or 546mmPCL, from Massachusetts Bay. Revival of Vulpecula marina Valmont, 1768: 740, rather than a description of a new species. Valmont's names were rejected as being not consistently binomial by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (1925, Opinion 89: 27-33).
  • Alopias caudatus  Phillipps, 1932:226. Based on specimen in Melbourne Museum figured by McCoy (1885: pl. 88) from Victoria, Australia. Holotype possibly NMV 58434 or 58437 according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
  • Alopias greyi  Whitley, 1937:5. Holotype? ca. 305 cm, type locality, Bermagui, New South Wales; jaws only, whereabouts unknown according to Eschmeyer (1998: CD-ROM).
  • Alopias vulpes  Gmelin, 1788
  • Alopecias vulpes  Gmelin, 1788
  • Carcharias vulpes  Gmelin, 1788
    FAO Names
    En - Thresher, Fr - Renard, Sp - Zorro.
    3Alpha Code: ALV     Taxonomic Code: 1060600601
    Scientific Name with Original Description
    Squalus vulpinus  Bonnaterre, 1788Tabl. Encyclop. Method. Trois Reg. Nat., Ichthyol., Paris, 9. Types unknown according to Eschmeyer (1998, Cat. Fish.: CD-ROM), type locality, Mediterranean Sea.
    Diagnostic Features
    fieldmarks: Long curving dorsal caudal lobe about as long as rest of shark, relatively small eyes, falcate, pointed pectoral fins, white colour of abdomen extending over pectoral fin bases.

    Head broad in dorsal and ventral view, with a strongly convex dorsolateral profile. Snout relatively short, conical and pointed. Eyes moderately large at all sizes, not expanded onto dorsal surface of head and without a vertical, binocular field of view; interorbital space broadly convex. Labial furrows present.  Teeth smaller with 32 to 52/25 to 50 rows (total for both jaws 58 to 102 rows); posterior tooth rows 2 to 10; symphysial and intermediate tooth rows usually present.  No nuchal grooves present above branchial region.  Pectoral fins falcate and with curved and narrow tips. Claspers extremely slender and whip-like. First dorsal-fin midbase closer to pectoral-fin bases than to pelvic fin bases. Caudal tip moderately slender with moderately broad terminal lobe.  Ribs of monospondylous precaudal vertebrae lateral and not fused ventrally as a canal. Total vertebral count 339 to 364. Intestinal valve count 33 to 34.  body blue-grey to dark grey or blackish above with sides silvery or coppery and underside white, white colour of abdomen extending dorsally and anteriorly over pectoral-fin bases as a conspicuous patch; white dot often present on upper pectoral-fin tips. 
    Geographical Distribution
    Oceanic and coastal, virtually circumglobal in tropical to cold-temperate seas but commonest in temperate waters. Western Atlantic (including Gulf of Mexico): Canada (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec, north to the Bay of Chaleur, Gulf of St. Lawrence), USA (entire Atlantic Coast but rare south of New England; Gulf Coast off Florida, Mississippi and Texas), Cuba, Mexico (Veracruz to Campeche), Venezuela, Brazil to Argentina. Eastern Atlantic: Norway and British Isles to Mediterranean and Black Seas, Morocco, Madeira, the Azores, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Angola, Namibia, and South Africa (Western Cape and probably Northern Cape). Indo-West Pacific: South Africa (Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal), Tanzania, Somalia, Maldives, Chagos Archipelago, Gulf of Aden, possibly Oman, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Japan, Republic of Korea, China, Taiwan (Province of China), Australia (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia), New Zealand, New Caledonia. Central Pacific: Society Islands, Fanning Islands, Hawaiian Islands. Eastern Pacific: Canada (British Columbia), the USA (Washington, Oregon and California) and Mexico (Baja California), south to Panama and Chile.
    Habitat and Biology
    Coastal over the continental and insular shelves and epipelagic far from land in temperate to tropical waters, most abundant near land; young often close inshore and in shallow bays. Depth range from the surface and the intertidal to at least 366 m, often near the surface. An active, strong-swimming shark, sometimes leaping out of the water. Thresher sharks in the northwestern Indian Ocean and off the west coast of North America show spatial and depth segregation by sex.Off the west coast of North America (and probably elsewhere) the species is seasonally migratory, and moves northward from Baja California into California waters during the spring, with adult males tending to travel farther northward than females and reaching the coast of British Columbia. Juveniles are mostly found in shallow warm-temperate inshore waters, particularly off southern California where an important nursery area occurs. Juveniles may be less cold-tolerant than adults, and seldom range north of central California. Both adults and juveniles congregate in inshore waters of southern California, primarily during spring and summer. Behaviour is otherwise poorly known, and little is known of sociobiology and behaviour patterns. Transoceanic migrations have not been demonstrated, and there may be separate populations with slightly different fecundity and size at maturity in the eastern Pacific and western Indian Ocean, and possibly elsewhere, but this remains to be determined.
    Ovoviviparous and apparently a uterine cannibal (oophagous), number of young 2 to 4 and rarely 6 in a litter off California (usually 2 to 4, commonly 4), and 3 to 7 in the eastern Atlantic. This species apparently uses inshore nursery areas in temperate waters (east coast of the United States, California, South Africa, the northeastern Atlantic and western Mediterranean, and probably elsewhere), with young sharks occurring in shallow bays (California, South Africa). In the eastern North Pacific (California) the species mates in summer, has a gestation period of nine months and gives birth during the spring. This shark matures between 3 and 8 years old, with a maximum age estimated at 45 to 50 years (Cailliet et al., 1983).  Feeds mostly on small schooling fishes but also bottom fishes, including herring, sardines, shad, pilchards and menhaden (Clupeidae), anchovies (Engraulidae), lanternfishes (Myctophidae), lancetfishes (Alepisauridae), needlefishes (Belonidae), scad (Trachurus, Carangidae), mackerels (Scombridae), bluefishes (Pomatomidae), plaice and flounder (Pleuronectidae) and sole (Soleidae); also squids, octopus and pelagic crustaceans, and rarely seabirds. Herds and stuns its prey with its long, whip-like caudal fin, and is often caught on longlines by being tailhooked. It swims in narrowing circles around schools of small fishes, splashing water with its caudal fin and compressing the school, then strikes and injures fishes with the caudal. Two threshers may cooperate on bunching and killing small fish.
    The largest thresher. Maximum total length at least 573 cm and possibly to over 610 cm, with an estimated maximum at 651 cm from growth curves and older unconfirmed records up to 760 cm. Size at birth 114 to 160 cm, with term foetuses up to 139 to 156 cm and small freeliving specimens down to 117 to 145 cm. Immature males up to at least 252 cm, while an adolescent male examined was 288 cm and adult males are 314 to at least 420 cm. Females maturing at about 315 to 400 cm, with immature or adolescent females up to 395 cm and adult females 376 to at least 549 cm. A length-weight equation is given by Kohler, Casey and Turner (1995) for fork length:
    W(kg) = 1.8821 x 10-4 FL(cm)2.5188 (n = 88; both sexes)
    where: FL(cm) = 0.5474 x TL(cm) + 7.0262 (n = 13)
    Interest to Fisheries
    Widely caught or formerly caught in offshore longline and pelagic gill net fisheries including those of the former USSR, Japan, Taiwan (Province of China), Spain, the USA, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, and other countries. Especially important areas for these fisheries are the northwestern Indian Ocean, the western, central, and eastern Pacific, and the North Atlantic. Also fished with anchored bottom and surface gill nets, and accidentally caught in other gear including bottom trawls and fish traps. The species became the object of an important targeted pelagic gill net fishery off the west coast of the United States (particularly California but also Washington and Oregon) in the late 1970s, peaking at about 1 000 t in 1982 and declining due to overfishing to less than 300 t by the late 1980s. The targeted fishery was ended by 1990 but the species was still caught as bycatch of the swordfish gill net fishery and may be sold for higher prices in the market than swordfish.
    The meat is highly prized fresh for human consumption (cooked) but is also eaten smoked and dried-salted; the fins are valuable for shark-fin soup; the hide is usable for leather and the liver oil can be processed for vitamins.Sports anglers seek these sharks in the USA, South Africa, and elsewhere with rod and reel. These sharks fight strongly when hooked and may jump out of the water. This and other threshers are listed as record fishes by the International Game Fish Association.

    Conservation Status : The conservation status of this shark is little known but is of some concern despite its midrange intrinsic rebound potential (a measure of the capacity to recover from fishing pressure; Smith, Au and Show, 1998) because of the history of the eastern Pacific thresher fishery (which declined quickly despite a relatively small and localized catch), and its exposure to high-intensity offshore fisheries virtually wherever it occurs.
    related Additional information from IUCN database
    related Additional information from CITESdatabase
    Local Names
    England : Common thresher ,  Fox shark ,  Thrasher shark ,  Long-tailed shark ,  Sea fox ,  Sea ape ,  Slasher .
    South Africa : Whiptail shark ,  Thintail thresher ,  Fynstert-sambokhaai .
    Wales : Lluynog mor .
    France : Renard ,  Singe de mer ,  La faux ,  Poisson épée ,  Péi aspasu ratou ,  Touille à lépée .
    Spain : Rabosa ,  Peix espasa ,  Zorra de mar ,  Pez zorro ,  Zorro blanco .
    Portugal : Arequim ,  Peixe alecrim ,  Peixe raposo ,  Peixe zorra .
    Madeira : Peixe rato ,  Peixe cavallo .
    Azores : Tubarâo raposo ,  Romano ,  Româo ,  Thresher shark .
    Italy : Pesce volpe ,  Pesce sorcio ,  Pesce bandiera ,  Pesce pavone ,  Pesce bannera ,  Volpe di mare ,  Pescio ratto ,  Allopia coda lunga ,  Allopia volpe marina ,  Pavone di mare ,  Pisce surci ,  Pisci cuda longa ,  Pisci cuduto ,  Pisci sciabula turca .
    Adriatic : Pas sabljas .
    Sweden : Raefhajen .
    Japan : Onagazame ,  Nadebuka ,  Nezumezame ,  Ma-onaga .
    Cuba : Zorro .
    Russia : Lisitska morskayia .
    Mozambique : Zorro cauda longa .
    This account follows Bass, D'Aubrey and Kistnasamy (1975a) and Compagno (1984) in combining several regional species of threshers from Chile, New Zealand and Australia into one wide-ranging species, A. vulpinus. Threshers examined by the writer from the west coast of the USA and South Africa agree closely in morphology and meristics.
    Threat to humans: Apparently harmless to people, though the size of adults of this species should invite respect. There is an unconfirmed anecdotal account of a fisherman on the western North Atlantic coast of the USA that was decapitated by a tailstroke from a big adult thresher (Mundus and Wisner, 1971). A few assaults on boats are doubtfully attributed to this species. Small specimens have been seen underwater by divers, at the surface or close to the bottom, and have circled them at the limit of visibility without acting aggressively. Michael (1993) notes that this species is shy and difficult to approach underwater, but mentions an incident where a thresher of this species was aggressive toward a spearfishing diver off New Zealand. To the writer's knowledge, this species has seldom if ever been kept in captivity and is not currently the subject of ecotouristic shark-diving.
    Source of Information
    SHARKS OF THE WORLD. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2 Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes).Leonard J.V. Compagno 2001.  FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 1, Vol. 2. Rome, FAO. 2001. p.269.
    Bass, D'Aubrey & Kistnasamy, 1975a
    Bedford, 1987
    Bigelow & Schroeder, 1948
    Cailliet & Bedford, 1983
    Cailliet, 1983
    Cailliet, Holts & Bedford, 1993
    Cailliet & Radtke, 1987
    Cailliet, Radtke & Welden, 1986
    Compagno, 1984- 1990b
    Eitner, 1995
    Garman, 1913
    Gruber & Compagno, 1981
    Gubanov, 1972- 1978
    Hanan, Holts & Coan, 1993
    Hixon, 1979
    Kohler, Casey & Turner, 1995
    Last & Stevens, 1994
    Michael, 1993
    Moreno, Parajua & Móron, 1989
    Pascoe, 1986
    Smith, Au & Show, 1998
    Powered by FIGIS