Shortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

Last updated: July 25, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock.com

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

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

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“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 snout, crescent-shaped caudal fin, 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.

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.

Shortfin Mako Shark Scientific Name

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.

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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.

Shortfin Mako Shark Appearance

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.

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 Shark Behavior

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 cousins, the Great white shark.

Shortfin Mako Shark Habitat

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.

Shortfin Mako Shark 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:

Shortfin Mako Shark Predators and Threats

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.

Shortfin Mako Shark Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

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, they still have to carry them for 15 to 18 months before giving birth!

Shortfin Mako Shark Pups are Cannibalistic

When inside the females’ 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.

Shortfin Mako Shark 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.

Shortfin Mako Shark 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 travel thousands of miles during a single event and like to swim at fast speeds, which is impossible in captivity.

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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

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:

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/

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