Shortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

Last updated: August 9, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

Shortfin Mako sharks can jump 20 feet above the water!”


Advertisement


Shortfin Mako Shark Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Chondrichthyes
Order
Lamniformes
Family
Lamnidae
Genus
Isurus
Scientific Name
Isurus oxyrinchus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Shortfin Mako Shark Conservation Status

Shortfin Mako Shark Locations

Shortfin Mako Shark Locations

Shortfin Mako Shark Facts

Prey
Tuna, Billfish, Blue sharks, Dolphins, Squids, Mackerel, Porpoises, Sea turtles
Main Prey
Tuna and billfish
Name Of Young
Pups
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Shortfin Mako sharks can jump 20 feet above the water!”
Biggest Threat
Commercial and recreational fishing
Most Distinctive Feature
Metallic blue or deep purple coloring
Other Name(s)
Blue pointer or Large Mackerel shark
Gestation Period
15-18 months
Temperament
Aggressive
Litter Size
4 to 18 pups
Habitat
Tropical and temperate waters at depths of 400 feet
Predators
Killer whale and Great white Shark
Diet
Carnivore
Average Litter Size
4 to 18 pups
Favorite Food
Tuna and billfish
Common Name
Shortfin Mako Shark
Location
Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean
Migratory
1

Shortfin Mako Shark Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Blue
  • Purple
Skin Type
Scales
Top Speed
43 mph
Lifespan
30 years
Weight
1,250 pounds
Length
13 feet
Venomous
No
Aggression
High

View all of the Shortfin Mako Shark images!



Share on:

“Shortfin Mako sharks can jump 20 feet above the water!”

The shortfin mako is one of the fastest sharks in the ocean, and at top speed, they can swim 43 mph. They were designed for speed with their streamlined bodies, pointed snouts, crescent-shaped caudal fins, and triangular dorsal fins.

Shortfin makos are metallic blue or deep purple on their backs and white on their underbellies with a very distinct color break down the middle. They are very active, and people often see them breaching the water during feeding times.

85,328 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Shortfin Mako Shark Facts

  • Males and females live separately and tend to avoid each other, except during mating season.
  • Their growth and sexual maturity rates are slow, with females reaching maturity between 18 to 21 years.
  • Shortfin mako sharks can jump up to 20 feet above the water, often when hunting.
  • Unfortunately, they are one of the few shark species whose meat is sold commercially.
  • Because their meat tastes so similar to swordfish, people use it in many dishes, including stew and fish tocos.
  • They are very fast swimmers and can constantly swim at 21.75 mph but can reach speeds up to 49.71 mph.
The largest shortfin mako, in the late 1950s, was caught off Marmaris, Turkey, and was estimated to be 18.7 to 20.3 ft long.

Scientific Name

shark

The Māori tribe in New Zealand used the shortfin mako shark’s teeth for their traditional attire in necklaces and earrings.

©iStock.com/Jtafalla

The shortfin mako shark’s scientific name is Isurus oxyrinchus; they belong to the Family Lamnidae and fall into the class Chondrichthyes. In addition, shortfin mako sharks are known by the names blue pointer and the large mackerel shark.



The Māori tribe in New Zealand used the shortfin mako shark’s teeth for their traditional attire in necklaces and earrings. That is why their name, Moko, means either shark or shark tooth in Māori.

Evolutionary History

The mako is a mackeral shark that is also known as sharp-nosed mackerel sharks. The extinct genus of mackerel shark known as Isurolamna, which contained three species of sharks – MacrorhizodusIsurus, and Cosmopolitodus – first began to appear in fossil records around 60 million years ago, during the Paleocene era. This extinct genus is thought to be the ancient relative of the mako. The Isurus praecurser, which is believed to be the earliest mako shark, began to appear in the Eocene era, about 55 million years ago.

The modern makos of today began making their appearances sometime during the Miocene era, where the two types of mako, the shortfin and longfin, were present.

Types of Makos

The Longfin mako shark has an impressively pointed snout with very sharp and long teeth that protrude from their mouths.

The Longfin mako shark has an impressively pointed snout with very sharp and long teeth that protrude from their mouths.

©Martin Prochazkacz/Shutterstock.com

There are two different species of mako sharks – the shortfin (Isurus oxyrinchus) and longfin mako (Isurus paucus), both of which are found throughout the world. The more common of the two is the shortfin, which is also more widespread, while the longfin mako is considered specialized and is also known as the big-eye mako. This species was not considered separate until the mid-to-late 1960s and there is not much known about them. Unlke the shortfin mako, who tends to reside near the surface, the longfin makos appear to be a more deep water dwelling predator. 

Appearance

A diver swimming with a Shortfin mako shark. These sharks are aggressive predators and should be avoided if possible.
A diver swimming with a Shortfin mako shark. These sharks are aggressive predators and should be avoided if possible.

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

Shortfin mako sharks have one very distinctive feature, which is their prominent coloration. Their backs range from a metallic indigo blue to deep purple; their sides are generally silver, and their underbellies are white. In addition, there is a very distinct color break between their back and underbelly, and they are white in color underneath their snouts and mouth.

Adult makos measure 13 feet in length and can weigh up to 1,250 pounds. The largest shortfin mako, in the late 1950s, was caught off Marmaris, Turkey, and was estimated to be 18.7 to 20.3 ft (5.7 to 6.19 m) long.

So, due to these striking features, their elongated and slender bodies, and extremely sharp teeth, it’s not hard to tell them apart from other sharks. Their teeth are so prominent that they stick out even when the shortfin mako’s mouth is closed.

Behavior

The mako shark is one of the fastest fish, and it is considered dangerous to humans because of its speed — it can attack aggressively and quickly. It has even been known to "jump" into fishing boats!

The mako shark is considered dangerous to humans because of its speed — it can attack aggressively and quickly. It has even been known to “jump” into fishing boats!

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

The shortfin mako shark is highly migratory and generally solitary. They can swim very long distances, move with their prey, and spend most of their lives searching for food and mates.

Shortfin mako sharks are apex predators, which means they are at the top of the food chain in their ecosystem. So luckily for them, they don’t have to constantly be aware of their surroundings. However, there have been records of great white sharks and killer whales hunting shortfin mako sharks, but this is very rare.

In addition, they are warm-blooded, even though they are not mammals. The correct phrase is endothermic, which means they are great at regulating their body temperature regardless of their environment. This is a characteristic that they share with their cousin, the Great white shark.

Habitat

Shortfin mako shark with pilot fish.

While they spend a lot of time in very deep water, they also enjoy skimming the surface.

©Xavier ELIAS Photography/Shutterstock.com

The shortfin mako is very adaptable when it comes to depth range. While they spend a lot of time in very deep water, they also enjoy skimming the surface. However, if they aren’t enjoying the fresh air, they can dive to depths of 400 feet!

In addition, they are very talented jumpers and can propel themselves 20 feet out of the water! However, seeing a shortfin mako jump that high is very rare. They usually only jump out of water when chasing prey close to the surface or when they get caught on a fishing line.

Excluding freezing waters, the shortfin mako shark inhabits most of the globe. This is due to their ability to travel rapidly and their preference for warmer water. However, these majestic sharks predominantly inhabit the Pacific Ocean and are often seen swimming between the United States of America and Chile.

But, in summer, they seem to prefer the water around Southern California, especially in San Diego. However, the majority of the population in that area are adolescent shortfin mako sharks.

Due to the abundance of juveniles found in this area, scientists believe that the females migrate to these waters when they are ready to give birth. The pups and juveniles in the area are usually between 1 to two years of age and often inhabit the San Diego waters during spring, summer, and Autumn.

Diet

Because the shortfin mako shark is so fast and agile, they prefer hunting prey that swims just as fast, like tuna or billfish. However, they have a wide variety in their diets which include:

Predators and Threats

Shortfin mako shark swimming just under the surface, offshore, about 50 kilometers past Western Cape in South Africa. This picture was taken during a blue water baited shark dive.

Shortfin makos have attacked humans before; however, this occurrence is rare and only when provoked.

©wildestanimal/Shutterstock.com

Although these sharks are apex predators, they do fall victim to great white sharks and killer whales from time to time.

Shortfin makos have attacked humans before; however, this occurrence is rare and only when provoked. Unfortunately, some of the attacks on humans were fatal because of their size and sheer power. But, people are very low on their prey list, and they tend to steer clear.

All these attacks were due to people trying to capture them, and when on the end of a fishing line, they struggle to break free, which often results in the fisherman or boat getting hurt or killed.

But humans are the sole source of these sharks’ declining numbers. Scientists blame this speedy shark for the depletion of other fish species like mackerel and tuna. However, it is the human race that slaughters these sharks for commercial and recreational fishing. To make matters worse, they are often casualties of overfishing swordfish and tuna.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Fastest Water Animals

Females usually give birth in shallow waters near coastlines so their pups have a secure area where they can hide from other predators.

©iStock.com/Alessandro De Maddalena

Females are ovoviviparous and reach sexual maturity when they measure 9 feet in length. The female stores her eggs in the same brood chamber where the embryo develops, so the embryos receive sustenance from a yolk sac.

In addition, the females give live birth because the pups hatch from egg capsules inside their uterus before they are born. Females usually give birth in shallow waters near coastlines so their pups have a secure area where they can hide from other predators.

While these sharks are not maternal at all; they leave their pups to fend for themselves right after birth, and they still have to carry them for 15 to 18 months before giving birth!

Pups are Cannibalistic

When inside the female’s uterus, the developing embryos don’t only feed on the unfertilized eggs, which is called oophagy. In addition, the stronger pups will prey on and eat the lesser-developed fetuses; this act is called intrauterine cannibalism. While some other shark species also partake in this phenomenon, it is still very rare.

Females give birth to the pups that managed to survive their siblings in late winter or early spring. Shortfin mako sharks usually give birth to between 4 to 18 pups. However, litters of 8 to 10 pups are very rare. When born, the pups generally measure 28 inches long.

Scientists determined that the adult female shortfin mako shark has a break of 18 months after giving birth before she mates again.

Population

Unfortunately, no statistics are available on the general population of this shark. However, due to overfishing, commercial, and recreational fishing, the IUCN listed this shark as Endangered.

In the Aquarium

These sharks don’t do well in captivity. In fact, out of all the shark species forced into captivity, the shortfin mako has fared the worst.

Sadly, the longest period one of these sharks has lasted in captivity was five days at the New Jersey Aquarium in 2001. It couldn’t seem to adapt to its new surroundings and had immense trouble navigating the tanks, often bumping into the walls. In addition, it refused to eat anything, causing it to weaken and die.

No wonder they didn’t fare well in an aquarium; they are used to traveling thousands of miles during a single event and like to swim at fast speeds, which is impossible in captivity.

Similar Fish to Shortfin Mako Shark

View all 293 animals that start with S

Share on:
About the Author

Melissa Bauernfeind was born in NYC and got her degree in Journalism from Boston University. She lived in San Diego for 10 years and is now back in NYC. She loves adventure and traveling the world with her husband but always misses her favorite little man, "P", half Chihuahua/half Jack Russell, all trouble. She got dive-certified so she could dive with the Great White Sharks someday and is hoping to swim with the Orcas as well.

Shortfin Mako Shark FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are shortfin mako sharks aggressive?

Shortfin makos have attacked humans before; however, this occurrence is rare and only when provoked.

Are shortfin mako sharks the fastest shark?

The shortfin mako shark is the fastest known species of shark and can reach maximum speeds of 46 mph. However, their average speed is 43 mph.

Where are shortfin mako sharks found?

The shortfin mako shark is very adaptable and is widely distributed in the Pacfic, Atlantic, and Indian oceans.

How big are shortfin mako sharks?

Adult makos measure 13 feet in length and can weigh up to 1,250 pounds. The largest shortfin mako was caught off the coast of California by a recreational angler and weighed 1098 pounds.

What do shortfin mako sharks eat?

Because the shortfin mako shark is so fast and agile, they prefer hunting prey that swims just as fast, like tuna or billfish. However, they have a wide variety in their diets which include:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortfin_mako_shark#Range_and_habitat
  2. Its Nature, Available here: https://itsnature.org/sea/fish/shortfin-mako-shark/
  3. Mental Floss, Available here: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/562060/mako-shark-facts
  4. Shark Insider, Available here: https://www.sharksider.com/shortfin-mako-shark/
  5. Florida Museum, Available here: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/isurus-oxyrinchus/
  6. IUCN, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/39341/2903170
  7. White Shark Projects, Available here: https://www.whitesharkprojects.co.za/news/10-interesting-facts-about-the-great-white-shark/
  8. USA Oceana, Available here: https://usa.oceana.org/fun-facts-about-great-white-sharks/
  9. Oceana, Available here: https://oceana.org/marine-life/longfin-mako-shark/#:~:text=The%20longfin%20mako%20shark%20is%20a%20large%2C%20predatory%20shark%20that,possibly%20counted%20as%2C%20shortfin%20makos.
  10. Marine Bio, Available here: https://www.marinebio.org/species/longfin-mako-sharks/isurus-paucus/
  11. Animals Network, Available here: https://animals.net/mako-shark/
  12. Marine Species Portal, Available here: https://marinespecies.wildlife.ca.gov/shortfin-mako-shark/

Newly Added Animals

A Cobalt Blue Tarantula
Cobalt Blue Tarantula

Cobalt blue tarantulas spend most of their time in self-dug burrows and only emerge when it's time to eat

A Dried Fruit Moth
Dried Fruit Moth

In the event of adverse environmental conditions, dried fruit moth larvae will become dormant and stop developing.

Most Recently Updated Animals

A Cobalt Blue Tarantula
Cobalt Blue Tarantula

Cobalt blue tarantulas spend most of their time in self-dug burrows and only emerge when it's time to eat

A Dried Fruit Moth
Dried Fruit Moth

In the event of adverse environmental conditions, dried fruit moth larvae will become dormant and stop developing.