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Oliver S.P.,University of Wales | Oliver S.P.,The Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project | Hussey N.E.,University of Windsor | Turner J.R.,University of Wales | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Interactions between pelagic thresher sharks (Alopias pelagicus) and cleaner wrasse were investigated at a seamount in the Philippines. Cleaning associations between sharks and teleosts are poorly understood, but the observable interactions seen at this site may explain why these mainly oceanic sharks regularly venture into shallow coastal waters where they are vulnerable to disturbance from human activity. From 1,230 hours of observations recorded by remote video camera between July 2005 and December 2009, 97 cleaner-thresher shark events were analyzed, 19 of which were interrupted. Observations of pelagic thresher sharks interacting with cleaners at the seamount were recorded at all times of day but their frequency declined gradually from morning until evening. Cleaners showed preferences for foraging on specific areas of a thresher shark's body. For all events combined, cleaners were observed to conduct 2,757 inspections, of which 33.9% took place on the shark's pelvis, 23.3% on the pectoral fins, 22.3% on the caudal fin, 8.6% on the body, 8.3% on the head, 2.1% on the dorsal fin, and 1.5% on the gills respectively. Cleaners did not preferentially inspect thresher sharks by time of day or by shark sex, but there was a direct correlation between the amount of time a thresher shark spent at a cleaning station and the number of inspections it received. Thresher shark clients modified their behavior by "circular-stance-swimming," presumably to facilitate cleaner inspections. The cleaner-thresher shark association reflected some of the known behavioral trends in the cleaner-reef teleost system since cleaners appeared to forage selectively on shark clients. Evidence is mounting that in addition to acting as social refuges and foraging grounds for large visiting marine predators, seamounts may also support pelagic ecology by functioning as cleaning stations for oceanic sharks and rays. © 2011 Oliver et al.

Oliver S.P.,The Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project | Oliver S.P.,Bangor University | Turner J.R.,Bangor University | Gann K.,The Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

The hunting strategies of pelagic thresher sharks (Alopias pelagicus) were investigated at Pescador Island in the Philippines. It has long been suspected that thresher sharks hunt with their scythe-like tails but the kinematics associated with the behaviour in the wild are poorly understood. From 61 observations recorded by handheld underwater video camera between June and October 2010, 25 thresher shark shunting events were analysed. Thresher sharks employed tail-slaps to debilitate sardines at all times of day. Hunting events comprised preparation, strike, wind-down recovery and prey item collection phases, which occurred sequentially. Preparation phases were significantly longer than the others, presumably to enable a shark to windup a tail-slap. Tail-slaps were initiated by an adduction of the pectoral fins, a manoeuvre that changed a thresher shark's pitch promoting its posterior region to lift rapidly, and stall its approach. Tail-slaps occurred with such force that they may have caused dissolved gas to diffuse out of the water column forming bubbles. Thresher sharks were able to consume more than one sardine at a time, suggesting that tail-slapping is an effective foraging strategy for hunting schooling prey. Pelagic thresher sharks appear to pursue sardines opportunistically by day and night, which may make them vulnerable to fisheries. Alopiids possess specialist pectoral and caudal fins that are likely to have evolved, at least in part, for tail-slapping. The evidence is now clear; thresher sharks really do hunt with their tails. © 2013 Oliver et al.

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