Shortfin Mako Shark - Isurus oxyrinchusIsurus oxyrinchus
Shortfin Mako Shark

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Lamniformes
Family: Lamnidae
Genus: Isurus
species: Isurus oxyrinchus
Full Taxonomy (ITIS)

Shortfin Mako Shark Photo Gallery

Description & Behavior
The shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus (Rafinesque, 1810), aka mako, shortfin, short-finned mako, blue pointer, mackerel shark, blue dynamite, bonito, spriglio, paloma—is a truly beautiful animal. It is a well-adapted and active pelagic shark. Like its cousin, the great white, it keeps its body temperature warmer than the surrounding water temperature using a high metabolic rate and heat-exchange system. It has a remarkable swim speed reaching sustained speeds of 35 kph (with bursts over 80 kph) and has been known to travel over 2,092 km in little over a month. These sharks have a rapid growth rate, twice as fast as some of the other Lamnidae species. Males mature at around 2 m while females mature at about 2.6 m. A maximum length of 4 m long and max weight over 505.8 kg has been recorded.

There are two types of mako, the most common and widely spread is the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, and the less common and more specialized longfin mako (or big-eye mako), Isurus paucus. Makos represent the largest, fastest most sophisticated species of pelagic shark on the planet.

An ancient relative Isurus hastilus is nearly identical in terms of tooth structure and function. The ancient mako hastilus was probably 6 m long and nearly 2,800 kg; it was the Cretaceous grand mako that shared the seas with kronosaurs, ichthyosaurs, and plesiosaurs.

The mako sharks are an easily recognizable shark exhibiting all the traits of a Lamnid, they are an extremely robust and streamlined pelagic shark with well developed eyes (larger in the longfin) and an endothermic circulatory system (warm bloodedness) that is known to maintain elevated muscle temperatures of up to .6°C above the ambient water temperature. Makos are heavily built with the trademark strong caudal keels that are a common feature among Lamnids such as great whites, porbeagles and salmon sharks.

Longfin makos are apparently a more deep water tropics-dwelling predator of which little is known. It wasn't even described as a separate species until 1966.

Makos have striking coloring with deep purple to indigo dorsal surfaces, silvery sides, and white ventral surfaces. The longfin mako has a shaded coloration around the mouth and underside of the snout, unlike the shortfin mako which is snow white around the mouth and under-snout. Only the blue shark can rival the makos for beautiful coloration.

Mako sharks have five large gill slits, well-developed eyes (slightly larger in the longfin) and pronounced knife-like, non-serrated teeth. An extremely fast and active shark, it was propelled to "big-game fishing" fame by author Zane Gray who was taken by the animals menacing appearance and volatility during the early part of this century. Author Ernest Hemingway was also impressed by the mako and depicted it as the marlin-marauding monster in his classic novel the Old Man and the Sea.

Author Richard Ellis also wrote an excellent short story about a deep sea contest between a mako and a broadbill swordfish in his popular work: The Book of Sharks.

World Range & Habitat
The mako shark is found around the world in warm and temperate seas, in the Pacific from Oregon to Chile, and juvenile makos are common in southern California during the summer months. Some scientists believe that female mako sharks migrate into San Diego's waters to have their pups. From spring to autumn, pups and 1-2 year-old sharks can be found off San Diego, several miles out at sea.

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Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
The makos of today feed on some of the worlds fastest and highly developed tunas and billfish and are therefore considered apex predators. Makos also feed on squid, dolphins, porpoise, blue sharks, bonito, sea turtles, and mackerels.

Life History
Shortfin mako development is ovoviviparous. Developing young are intra-uteral cannibals that consume lesser developed siblings. Which is known as oviphagy. Very little is known about the reproduction of the shortfin mako because females abort embryos during capture. Litters of over 8-10 pups are uncommon.

Female shortfin makos usually become sexually mature at a length of 3 m. Developing embryos feed on unfertilized eggs in the uterus during the gestation period of 15-18 months. The 4-18 surviving young are born live in the late winter and early spring at a length of about 70 cm. It is believed that females may rest for 18 months after birth before the next batch of eggs are fertilized.

Ovoviviparous: eggs are retained within the body of the female in a brood chamber where the embryo develops, receiving nourishment from a yolk sac. This is the method of reproduction for the "live-bearing" fishes where pups hatch from egg capsules inside the mother's uterus and are born soon afterwards. Also known as aplacental viviparous.

Makos are prized gamefish. Although an oceanic species, the shortfin mako's power, aggressiveness, teeth and great speed, make it a danger to humans. Shortfin makos have been blamed for a number of both nonfatal and fatal attacks on humans. Divers who have encountered shortfin makos note that they swim in a figure eight pattern and approach with mouths open prior to an attack. Shortfin makos frequently damage boats and injure fishermen after being hooked. Most attacks occur when the shark is either provoked or caught on the end of a fishing line. The mako is fished commercially and for recreation. In some areas this shark has been wrongly blamed for the depletion of commercial fishing stocks i.e., mackerel, tuna, etc.

The world's affinity for shark fin soup and the delectable flesh of the shortfin mako has lead to a decrease in population numbers. Worldwide, the shortfin mako is not only subject to overharvesting by direct hunting, they are also often by-catch victims of the tuna and swordfish fishing industries. As a result, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has included the shortfin mako on their list of "managed" pelagic sharks. The NMFS has reduced the number of commercial and recreational shortfin mako catches allowed per year by 50% in an attempt to counter act its declining numbers. However, the NMFS regulations apply only to the United State's Atlantic and Gulf waters. Also hastening their population decrease is their slow reproductive rate.

The shortfin mako is listed as Lower Risk (LR/nt) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

LOWER RISK (LR) - A taxon is Lower Risk when it has been evaluated and does not satisfy the criteria for any of the categories Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Taxa included in the Lower Risk category can be separated into three subcategories:

   1. Conservation Dependent (cd). Taxa which are the focus of a continuing taxon-specific or habitat-specific conservation programme targeted towards the taxon in question, the cessation of which would result in the taxon qualifying for one of the threatened categories above within a period of five years.
   2. Near Threatened (nt). Taxa which do not qualify for Conservation Dependent, but which are close to qualifying for Vulnerable.
   3. Least Concern (lc). Taxa which do not qualify for Conservation Dependent or Near Threatened.

Further Research



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