Shortfin mako shark
The shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus ("sharp nose"), is a large mackerel shark. Along with the closely related longfin mako
Longfin mako
The longfin mako shark is a species of mackerel shark in the family Lamnidae, with a probable worldwide distribution in temperate and tropical waters. An uncommon species, it is commonly lumped together under the name "mako" with its better-known relative, the shortfin mako shark...

 (Isurus paucus) it is commonly referred to as a "mako shark".


In 1809, Constantine Rafinesque first described shortfin mako and coined the name Isurus oxyrinchus (Isurus
Isurus is a genus of mackerel sharks in the family Lamnidae, commonly known as the mako sharks. There are two living species, the common shortfin mako shark and the rare longfin mako shark , and several extinct species known from fossils. They range in length from 9 to 15 feet, and have an...

 means "the same tail", oxyrinchus means "pointy snout"). "Mako" comes from the Māori language
Maori language
Māori or te reo Māori , commonly te reo , is the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Māori. It has the status of an official language in New Zealand...

, meaning either the shark or a shark tooth. It may have originated in a dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

al variation as it is similar to the common words for shark in a number of Polynesian languages
Polynesian languages
The Polynesian languages are a language family spoken in the region known as Polynesia. They are classified as part of the Austronesian family, belonging to the Oceanic branch of that family. They fall into two branches: Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian. Polynesians share many cultural traits...

makō in the Kāi Tahu
Ngai Tahu
Ngāi Tahu, or Kāi Tahu, is the principal Māori iwi of the southern region of New Zealand, with the tribal authority, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, being based in Christchurch and Invercargill. The iwi combines three groups, Kāi Tahu itself, and Waitaha and Kāti Mamoe who lived in the South Island prior...

 Māori dialect, mangō in other Māori dialects, "mago" in Samoan
Samoan language
Samoan Samoan Samoan (Gagana Sāmoa, is the language of the Samoan Islands, comprising the independent country of Samoa and the United States territory of American Samoa. It is an official language—alongside English—in both jurisdictions. Samoan, a Polynesian language, is the first language for most...

, ma'o in Tahitian
Tahitian language
Tahitian is an indigenous language spoken mainly in the Society Islands in French Polynesia. It is an Eastern Polynesian language closely related to the other indigenous languages spoken in French Polynesia: Marquesan, Tuamotuan, Mangarevan, and Austral Islands languages...

, and mano in Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

. The first written usage is in Lee & Kendall's
Thomas Kendall
Thomas Kendall was a New Zealand lapsed missionary, recorder of the Māori language, schoolmaster, arms dealer, and Pākehā Māori.-Early life: Lincolnshire and London, 1778-1813:...

 Grammar and vocabulary of the language of New Zealand (1820), which simply states "Máko; A certain fish". Richard Taylor's
Richard Taylor (missionary)
Richard Taylor was a C.M.S. missionary in New Zealand. He was present at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, but is perhaps most notable for the numerous books he wrote on the natural and cultural environment of New Zealand in his time...

 A leaf from the natural history of New Zealand (1848) is more elaborate: "Mako, the shark which has the tooth so highly prized by the Maoris".
The mako is known as rokea in Kiribati
Gilbertese language
-External links:**** with Gilbertese – English Translations from – The Rosetta Edition**...

 and Tuvaluan.

Range and habitat

The shortfin mako inhabits offshore temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 and tropical seas worldwide. The closely related longfin mako shark, Isurus paucus, is found in the Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

 or warmer offshore waters.

It is a pelagic species that can be found from the surface down to depths of 150 m (492.1 ft), normally far from land though occasionally closer to shore, around islands or inlets. One of only four known endothermic
The term warm-blooded is a colloquial term to describe animal species which have a relatively higher blood temperature, and maintain thermal homeostasis primarily through internal metabolic processes...

 sharks, it is seldom found in waters colder than 16 °C (60.8 °F).

In the western Atlantic it can be found from Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

 and the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 to Browns Bank off of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

. In Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 waters these sharks are neither abundant nor rare. Swordfish are a good indication of shortfin makos as the former is a source of food and prefers similar environmental conditions.

Shortfin makos travel long distances to seek prey or mates. In December 1998, a female tagged off California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 was captured in the central Pacific by a Japanese research vessel, meaning this fish traveled over 1725 miles (2,776.1 km). Another swam 1322 miles (2,127.5 km) in 37 days, averaging 36 miles (57.9 km) a day.


The shortfin mako feeds mainly upon cephalopods, bony fishes including mackerel
Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They may be found in all tropical and temperate seas. Most live offshore in the oceanic environment but a few, like the Spanish mackerel , enter bays and can be...

s, tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

s, bonito
Bonito is a name given to various species of medium-sized, predatory fish in the Scombridae family. First, bonito most commonly refers to species in the genus Sarda, including the Atlantic bonito and the Pacific bonito ; second, in Japanese cuisine, bonito refers to the skipjack tuna , which, in...

s, and swordfish
Swordfish , also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood...

, but it may also eat other sharks, porpoise
Porpoises are small cetaceans of the family Phocoenidae; they are related to whales and dolphins. They are distinct from dolphins, although the word "porpoise" has been used to refer to any small dolphin, especially by sailors and fishermen...

s, sea turtle
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

s, and seabirds. They hunt by lunging vertically up and tearing off chunks of their preys' flanks and fins. Makos swim below their prey, so they can see what is above and have a high probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

 of reaching prey before it notices. Biting the caudal peduncle can immobilize the prey. In Ganzirri and Isola Lipari, Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, shortfin makos have been found with amputated swordfish bills impaled into their head and gills, suggesting that swordfish seriously injure and likely kill makos. In addition, this location, and the late spring and early summer timing, corresponding to the swordfish's spawning
Spawn (biology)
Spawn refers to the eggs and sperm released or deposited, usually into water, by aquatic animals. As a verb, spawn refers to the process of releasing the eggs and sperm, also called spawning...

 cycle, suggests that these makos hunt while the swordfish are most vulnerable, typical of many predators.

Shortfin consume 3% of its weight each day and takes about 1.5–2 days to digest an average-sized meal. By comparison, an inactive species such as the sandbar shark
Sandbar shark
The sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific. It is distinguishable by its very high first dorsal fin and inter-dorsal ridge....

 consumes 0.6% of its weight a day and takes 3 to 4 days to digest it. An analysis of the stomach contents of 399 male and female mako sharks ranging from 67–328 cm (26.4–129.1 ) suggest makos from Cape Hatteras
Cape Hatteras
Cape Hatteras is a cape on the coast of North Carolina. It is the point that protrudes the farthest to the southeast along the northeast-to-southwest line of the Atlantic coast of North America...

 to the Grand Banks
Grand Banks
The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.The mixing of these waters...

 prefer bluefish
The bluefish , called tailor in Australia, is a species of popular marine gamefish found in all climates. It is the sole species of the Pomatomidae family....

, constituting 77.5% of the diet by volume. The average capacity of the stomach was 10% of the total weight. Shortfin makos consumed 4.3% to 14.5% of the available bluefish between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank
Georges Bank
Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia ....


Shortfin over 3 metres (9.8 ft) have interior teeth considerably wider and flatter than smaller makos, which enables them to prey effectively upon dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

s, swordfish
Swordfish , also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood...

, and other sharks. An amateur videotape, taken in Pacific waters, shows a moribund spotted dolphin whose tail was almost completely severed, with a very large shortfin mako circling the dying dolphin. Makos also have the tendency to scavenge long-lined and netted fish.

Its endothermic constitution partly accounts for its relatively great speed.

Like other lamnid
Lamnidae is a family of sharks, commonly known as mackerel sharks or white sharks. They are large, fast-swimming sharks, found in oceans worldwide....

 sharks, the shortfin mako has a heat exchange circulatory system
Circulatory system
The circulatory system is an organ system that passes nutrients , gases, hormones, blood cells, etc...

 that allows the shark to be 7-10°F (4-7°C) warmer than the surrounding water. This system enables makos to maintain at a stable, very high level of activity, giving it an advantage over its cold-blooded prey.


The shortfin mako's speed has been recorded at 50 kilometres per hour (31.1 mph) with bursts of up to 74 kilometres per hour (46 mph). They can leap approximate 9 metres (29.5 ft) high or higher in the air. Some scientists suggest that the biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

 of shortfin mako can swim up to 100 kilometres per hour (62.1 mph). Scientists are in debate exactly how fast the shortfin mako shark can swim, as well as which particular species are actually the champion ocean swimmers. This high-leaping fish is sought as game
Game (food)
Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated. Game animals are also hunted for sport.The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This will be influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted view about what can or...

 worldwide. There are cases when an angry mako jumped into a boat after having been hooked.

This shark is highly migratory
Fish migration
Many types of fish migrate on a regular basis, on time scales ranging from daily to annually or longer, and over distances ranging from a few metres to thousands of kilometres...



The shortfin mako shark is a yolk-sac ovoviviparous
Ovoviviparity, ovovivipary, or ovivipary, is a mode of reproduction in animals in which embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch...

 shark, giving birth to live young. Developing embryos feed on unfertilized eggs in uterus during the 15 to 18 month gestation
Gestation is the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside a female viviparous animal. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time ....

 period. This is called (oophagy
Oophagy , literally "egg eating", is the practice of embryos feeding on eggs produced by the ovary while still inside the mother's uterus. The word oophagy is formed from the classical Greek ᾠόν and classical Greek φᾱγεῖν ....

) (i.e. egg-eating). Shortfins do not engage in sibling cannibalism unlike the sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus). The 4 to 18 surviving young are born live in the late winter and early spring at a length of about 70 centimetres (27.6 in). It is believed that females may rest for 18 months after birth before mating again. Last and Stevens (2009) report shortfin makos bear young on average every 3 years.


A landmark study by Natanson et al. (2006) has overturned previous highly inaccurate estimations of lifespan and sexual maturity in shortfin makos from the North Atlantic. Natanson et al. (2006) aged vertebrae of 258 specimens and recorded:
  • Maximum age of 29 years in males (260 cm FL)
  • Maximum age of 32 years in females (335 cm FL)
  • 50% sexual maturity at 8 years in males (185 cm FL)
  • 50% sexual maturity at 18 years in females (275 cm FL)

Last and Stevens (2009) report similar findings.

Sustainable consumption

In 2010, Greenpeace International added the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus or mackerel shark) to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."


Of all recorded attempts to keep pelagic shark species in captivity
Captivity (animal)
Animals that live under human care are in captivity. Captivity can be used as a generalizing term to describe the keeping of either domesticated animals or wild animals. This may include for example farms, private homes and zoos...

, the shortfin mako has fared the poorest; even more so than the oceanic whitetip shark
Oceanic whitetip shark
The oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus, is a large pelagic shark inhabiting tropical and warm temperate seas. Its stocky body is most notable for its long, white-tipped, rounded fins....

, the blue shark
Blue shark
The blue shark is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, that inhabits deep waters in the world's temperate and tropical oceans. Preferring cooler waters, blue sharks migrate long distances, for example from New England to South America. Although generally lethargic, they can move very...

 and the great white shark
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

. The current record is held by a specimen that, in 2001, was kept at the New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 Aquarium for only five days. Like past attempts at keeping Isurus in captivity, the animal appeared strong upon arrival but had trouble negotiating the walls of the aquarium, refused to feed, quickly weakened and died.

Attacks on humans

International Shark Attack File
The International Shark Attack File is a global database of shark attacks. It began as an attempt to catalogue shark attacks on servicemen during World War II. The Office of Naval Research funded it from 1958 until 1968. During that time a panel of shark experts developed a standard system for...

 statistics records forty-two shortfin attacks
Shark attack
A shark attack is an attack on a human by a shark. Every year around 60 shark attacks are reported worldwide, although death is quite unusual. Despite the relative rarity of shark attacks, the fear of sharks is a common phenomenon, having been fueled by the occasional instances of serial attacks,...

 between 1980 and 2010, on humans, three fatal, along with twenty boat
A boat is a watercraft of any size designed to float or plane, to provide passage across water. Usually this water will be inland or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed to be operated from a ship in an offshore environment. In naval terms, a boat is a...

 attacks. Sharks can be attracted to spear fishermen carrying a stuck fish, and may slap them with cavitation
Cavitation is the formation and then immediate implosion of cavities in a liquidi.e. small liquid-free zones that are the consequence of forces acting upon the liquid...

bubbles from a swift tail flick. Though, generally these species of sharks will not attack humans. When humans are attacked, it is because they are mistaken for weakened or hurt prey.

External links

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