Mako sharks are the cheetahs of the shark family. If there ever was a shark race, the mako would be the fastest every time. There are two existing types of mako sharks, the longfin and the shortfin, which make up the Isurus group of sharks.
Isurus is Greek for equal tail, referring to the mako’slunate, or crescent-shaped tail fin. The long fin mako is incredibly rare, so this article will focus on the short fin mako. Common names for the shortfin are makos, blue dynamites, and blue pointers. Its nickname is “peregrine falcon of the sea.”
Mako sharks are considered very dangerous to humans due to their size, speed, and aggressive behavior. Mako sharks are known to attack with their mouths wide open after swimming in a figure-eight pattern. Many fishermen have been on the receiving end of a mako shark attack.
Mako sharks can survive in both cold and warm waters, so they can be found worldwide. They are primarily a pelagic, or open water, species of sharks. By using tagged mako sharks, scientists have proven they do migrate, or move, to warmer water during colder seasons.
An average mako shark reaches about 10 feet (about half the length of a giraffe) and weighs 375 pounds (twice as heavy as an adult kangaroo). Female mako sharks grow considerably larger than males, reaching up to 12 feet and over 1,400 pounds.
The mako shark’s coloration is often described as metallic blue on top, silver sides, and a white belly. The shortfin mako has a white snout area, while the longfin mako has a darker color around the snout. Individual differences in color are related to size. Larger mako sharks are darker colored.
The mako shark is a cousin of the great white shark and has a similar streamlined, torpedo-like profile. For identification purposes, many people just call it a smaller version of the great white. The teeth of a mako shark’s lower jaw can be seen even with its mouth closed.
Mako sharks are carnivores or meat-eaters. Because of its speed, it can catch even the fastest of fish species. Tuna, mackerel, swordfish, and sea birds often find themselves on the mako’s menu. Interestingly enough, some scientists say the mako’s ability to swim so fast is due to its tail shape, which is very similar to a tuna’s tail.
Its speed is widely known as the mako’s greatest advantage. Mako sharks normally swim at around 35 miles per hour, which would be like a human driving a car within city limits. However, the maximum speed it can reach is 60 miles per hour! This is slightly less than what a cheetah can run on land.
The mako shark is also known for its ability as an incredible acrobat. It routinely is seen jumping 20 to 30 feet above the water, but these water jumps have continued to baffle scientists. Some theories are that the mako shark jumps out of the water to see prey better. It is not uncommon for mako sharks to literally jump into fishing boats!
Mako sharks are ovoviviparous, which means the baby sharks (called pups) start life as eggs before being hatched inside the mother’s body and then born live. Female mako sharks must carry the babies anywhere from 15 to 18 months before giving birth. Each litter can have between 4 and 18 pups. There is not a lot known about the reproductive process of mako sharks because scientists have never been able to study an expectant female mako shark.
The mako shark population, unfortunately, is on a decline. This is largely due to overfishing. The shortfin mako is a prized gamefish for sportsmen due to the thrill of the catch, especially with its jumping ability. The demand for “sharkfin soup” is also a factor because the skin of a mako is considered quite tasty. Mako sharks are not always caught purposely but are often netted by mistake by fishermen trying to catch other species of fish.
Considering all of these factors, the mako shark has been listed as Vulnerable and may be listed as endangered in the future.
- “Mako” is a word that comes from the Maori language and literally means “shark.” The Maori are indigenous, or native, people from New Zealand.
- In 2017, a tagged mako shark made headlines when it went 13,000 miles (the same distance as halfway around the earth) in just 600 days! Scientists believe mako sharks must swim at least 35 miles daily just to find food!