10 Essential Mako Shark Facts

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Shortfin_mako_shark_Isurus_oxyrinchus
Shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, off Catalina Island, California. Image credit: jidanchaomian CC BY-SA 2.0

Ten Essential Mako Shark Facts

Shortfin_mako_shark_Isurus_oxyrinchus
Shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, off Catalina Island, California. Image credit: jidanchaomian CC BY-SA 2.0

1. There are two kinds of mako shark.

shortfin_mako_shark_Isurus_oxyrinchus_and_longfin_mako_shark_Isurus_paucus
Shortfin mako shark (I. oxyrinchus) by NOAA-SWFSC and Longfin mako shark (I. paucus) by NOAA Observer Program

There is the shortfin mako shark – Isurus oxyrinchus – and the longfin mako shark – Isurus paucus. Shortfin mako sharks are bluish on top with pale coloration around the eyes while longfin mako sharks are dark blue or grayish black on top with dark coloration around the eyes. As their name implies, longfin mako sharks have longer and broader pectoral fins – the fins that shoot out of their sides. In fact, sometimes, these fins are even longer than their heads. They also have larger eyes.

Shortfin mako sharks are far more commonly seen than longfin mako sharks and are especially common off the coasts of Tahiti, Cape Cod and New Zealand. Longfin mako sharks are commonly found off the coasts of Brazil, Cuba and Florida.




2. Mako sharks are cousins of the great white shark.

Great_White_Shark
Great White Shark by Elias Levy cc2.0

Mako sharks belong to the Lamnidae family, also known as the family of mackerel sharks, which is also the same family that the great white shark belongs to. Like the great white shark, mako sharks have large teeth. Their lower teeth, in particular, are large and pointed, which is why they show even when the mako shark’s mouth is closed, giving it a fierce appearance.

Like the great white shark, mako sharks are also partially warm-blooded. They have a special network of blood vessels called rete mirabile which circulate their blood in such a way that they are always a little warmer than the water around them. This allows them to be more active and makes them even more excellent hunters than other sharks.

Other cousins of mako sharks include the salmon shark and the porbeagle shark.


3. The shortfin mako has been called ‘the peregrine falcon of the ocean’.

Of all the sharks, the shortfin mako shark is the fastest. It normally cruises at a speed of around 22 miles per hour but when hunting, can achieve bursts of up to 60 miles per hour. That makes it about as fast as an ostrich and faster than a greyhound. The shortfin mako shark doesn’t just swim. It leaps out of the water, sometimes to catch prey and sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all. Amazingly, it can leap more than 30 feet out of the water!

The shortfin mako shark also holds the world record for fastest long distance travel – approximately 1,300 miles in just 37 days. That’s almost as far as it would take to drive from New York to Miami. If a person were walking that long, it could easily take more than 100 days.


4. The longest shortfin mako shark ever caught was over 14 feet long.

On average, mako sharks grow around 10 feet long, with females being longer than males, as in most sharks. In fact, some females have been reported to exceed 12 feet long.

The longest shortfin mako shark ever caught was 14.6 feet long while the longest longfin mako shark caught was 13.7 feet long. The heaviest shortfin mako caught by hook-and-line was around 1,300 pounds but there have been reports of shortfin mako sharks weighing nearly 2,000 pounds!


5. Shortfin mako sharks have large brains.

Brain_Art
Brain art. Image credit: MarshallStaxx cc2.0

Shortfin mako sharks have a large brain-to-body ratio, which means they have big brains for their size. This, in turn, means that they have the potential for intelligence and in fact, many scientists believe that they are intelligent creatures, which learn fast and adapt quickly to different circumstances. In particular, they can easily tell when someone is threatening them or not. Also, they have been observed to rely on all their senses when hunting and not mostly on electroreception, like the great white shark.


6. Shortfin mako sharks love to eat swordfish.

Mediterranean_sword_fish
Mediterranean sword fish. Image credit: felix sanchez villarejo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Shortfin mako sharks often go after bony fish like tuna and mackerels. They appear to have a preference for swordfish, which they can easily keep up with. Whether it is because of the taste of swordfish or the challenge that swordfish present, scientists do not know, but hunting swordfish can have its pains. In fact, several shortfin mako sharks have been found with broken swordfish bills in their gills, heads or abdomens, which in most cases, eventually kill them.

Occasionally, shortfin mako sharks also eat other sharks, dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles and seabirds.


7. Beware! Shortfin mako sharks are known to attack humans.

Mako_Shark_Attack
Image credit: manoellemos CC BY-SA 2.0

Because of their size, speed and sharp teeth, mako sharks are definitely capable of harming and killing humans. Only shortfin mako sharks have been known to attack, though, with 42 recorded unprovoked attacks between 1980 to 2010, three of which were fatal. They can be quite aggressive and do not like people swimming around them. They have also been known to attack boats. When caught on the line, they fight back fiercely and also attack fishermen to get their catch, especially spear fishermen and those who catch tuna and swordfish.

There are no recorded longfin mako shark attacks. However, it is still best to be cautious around these sharks. They are also known to fight back when caught.


8. Mako sharks give birth to live pups.

Both the shortfin mako shark and the longfin mako shark are ovoviviparous. This means that the females have eggs but the eggs remain inside her body. There, the young sharks develop, getting nourishment from the yolk of the egg, and once fully developed, hatch. In some cases, especially among longfin mako sharks, intrauterine cannibalism occurs, which means the first young to hatch inside the mother’s uterus eats the ones that have not yet hatched. If this doesn’t happen, the female mako shark gives birth to up to 10 fully-developed pups, which are between 28 to 39 inches long.

The whole gestation period – the time it takes for the eggs to develop into pups – takes 15 to 18 months. That’s quite long, so after giving birth, the female takes about as long to rest before mating and becoming pregnant again, resulting in a rather low reproductive rate.


9. Mako sharks are sacred to the Maori.

New_Zealand_Maori_rowing
New Zealand Maori rowing ceremonial coreography. Image credit: Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The word ‘mako’ actually comes from the language of the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, meaning ‘shark’. Among them, mako sharks are considered guardian spirits and the teeth of mako sharks are highly prized, worn by tribe officials and the most distinguished warriors. The Maori also use the liver oil of mako sharks, mixing them with plants in order to create pigments with which they paint their bodies.




10. Sadly, Mako sharks face the possibility of extinction.

threatened_extinction_mako_shark
Image credit: KF6OAK CC BY-SA 2.0

Currently, both the shortfin mako shark and the longfin mako shark are classified as Vulnerable species, which means they are threatened by extinction, their population having decreased significantly in the past few decades. The biggest threat they face is hunting for their meat, which is tasty compared to the meat of other sharks. Like other sharks, they are also hunted for their fins, skin and liver oil. Also, the shortfin mako shark is hunted for sport because of its size and speed.


Mako Sharks Videos

The YouTube video below contains a playlist of 3 videos to have a look at, the list of videos featured is underneath.

These videos are mentioned in the following books:
Sharks Early Readers
25 most Awesome Sharks
The Daily Shark

    1. Mako Shark – 80 kph – 50 mph – Rare Footage by InternetDiscoveries. Mako Shark – 80 kph – 50 mph – Rare Footage
    2. Mako Shark HD Stock Footage by aquavisiontv. Mako shark swimming in bright blue sea.
    3. Massive Mako Shark Surprises Diver and Blue Marlin! by Dr Guy Harvey. While on a Guy Harvey Expedition off Cat Island in the Bahamas, diver and shark expert Jim Abernethy was filming a blue marlin underwater when he got a surprise visit from a 10ft. long, 600 lb. mako.

More Shark Video Pages to Enjoy:
Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerhead, Mako, Great White, Megamouth, Goblin Sharks, Shark Senses, Sharks and Humans, Tonic Immobility, Whale Sharks, Lanternshark, Megalodon, Cookiecutter, Frilled Sharks, Spiny Dogfish, Basking Sharks, Angel Shark, Horn Sharks, Wobbegong, Zebra Shark, Blue Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Reef Sharks, Sand Tiger Shark, Oceanic Whitetip.


Sources:

http://theshark.dk/en/makoshark.php
http://marinebio.org/species.asp?id=36
http://www.sharks-world.com/mako_shark/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longfin_mako_shark

To view the complete list of sources, click here…

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