Thresher sharks are known for their extremely long tails, which as previously hypothesized by marine biologist, used as a whip to stun and kill prey. The whipping behavior has been observed by divers before, and has been filmed as part of an University of Thessaloniki study back in 2010, but now for the first time videos of the hunting technique have been published online.
The videos are not big screen quality by any means, but should give you a good and exciting visualization of the behavior. The tail is most often whipped along the back and above the head, although some thresher sharks have been reported tail smacking sideways which according to the researchers “appeared slow and lazy compared to overhead tail-slaps”.
The shock wave which travels up to 24 meters per second (over 50 mph) is able to stun and often kill up to seven fish at a time. Although the tail whipping is ineffective half of the time, the large number of prey when the attack is successful counters any failure. It is hypothesized that this is actually the main feeding mechanism for these sharks.
As part of University of Thessaloniki study 61 of such underwater videos were carefully analyzed to accurately describe the behavior, and associated feeding patterns. The article is free to access for anyone, so if you are interested check out the article here.