Thresher shark image shows rare live birth

Image captured in the Philippines is believed to be the first showing a live birth of a pelagic shark species; researcher "freaked out" after seeing the photo

thresher shark

Thresher shark image is courtesy of Attila E. Kaszo

A photograph showing the birth of a thresher shark is believed to be the first photo showing the live birth of any pelagic species of shark.

The image was captured by Attila E. Kaszo during a 2013 research expedition in the Philippines. It was recently published, along with a scientific paper, in the journal Coral Reefs.

The paper states that this is the first record of a thresher shark giving birth. But Simon Oliver, lead researcher from the University of Chester, told BBC News that the image also represents "the first record of any oceanic species giving birth."

The image, captured during a biological survey of Monad Shoal, reveals the head of a thresher shark pup emerging from its mother.

Oliver said he "freaked out" after inspecting the image. His colleague, Simon Thorrold of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, added:

"I have never seen a comparable image for any other pelagic shark. It may well be [a first], or at least the first time that the event has been photographed, but this is always difficult to say definitively."

The Monad Shoal is utilized by thresher sharks as a "cleaning station," a reef destination sharks visit to have parasites removed by small fish called cleaner wrasses.

Scientists are trying to have the site designated a marine protected area, to protect visiting sharks, especially given that the area might be be a pupping ground for thresher sharks.

Thresher sharks, which use their long, scythe-like tail fins to stun prey, are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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