Wildlife Fact Sheets

Shortfin Mako Shark

Shortfin Mako Shark

Shortfin Mako Shark

Isurus oxyrinchus

Endangered
  • Life Span
    More than 30 years old
  • Habitat
    The open ocean
  • Range
    In tropical to temperate waters around the world
  • Preferred Food
    Large animals like squid, dolphin, sea turtles and more

About

Shortfin mako sharks are speed demons. They can swim up to 45 miles per hour (that’s as fast as a horse can run). This comes in handy when they go after fast prey like dolphins, mackerels and other sharks. Shortfin mako sharks are specially designed to reach those top speeds: They have strong muscles and a streamlined body that allows them to power through the water in fast bursts. Shortfin mako sharks also have specialized blood vessels that allow them to keep their body temperatures higher than the surrounding water. This system, called a counter-current heat exchange, allows warm blood to transfer heat to the cold water coming in through their gills, ensuring they always feel toasty. This allows them to be powerful swimmers and travel long distances. Shortfin mako sharks has are among other fish that possess this warming technique; other Laminid sharks like great whites as well as other fish like tuna, swordfish and marlin have this ability as well.

Did You Know?

Shortfin mako sharks are at the top of the food chain! Their size and speed make them dominant predators in the ecosystem. Occasionally, another shark will eat juvenile makos, but predators rarely go after adults. However, there are some reports of cannibalism: Baby mako sharks sometimes eat unfertilized eggs while in their mother’s womb through a practice called oophagy. Shortfin mako sharks can reach up to 13 feet in length, and baby shortfin mako sharks are two feet long when born.

Status and Conservation

Shortfin mako sharks are also super athletic. They are known for their speed and aggressiveness—traits which also make them a prized catch for sportfishers. Shortfin mako sharks are known to fight hard and jump out of the water when hooked, which means fishing for them becomes a desirable challenge. Unfortunately, shortfin mako sharks can easily get entangled in longline fishing gear as bycatch even when fishers are not specifically trying to catch them. Commercial and recreational fishing worldwide, on top of shark finning killing them for their fins, has greatly decreased their populations. Also, because they are highly migratory fish that cross international boundaries, countries need to work together to set regulations that help protect them from overharvest. Shortfin mako sharks were recently reclassified from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered,” which means their populations are declining and are at heightened risk of extinction.

Fast Facts

  • Shortfin mako sharks can reach up to 13 feet in length.
  • Baby shortfin mako sharks are 2 feet long when born.

Resources

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