Shortfin mako shark

Shortfin mako shark

Shortfin mako, Blue pointer, Bonito shark

Isurus oxyrinchus
Life Span
25-32 years
kg lbs 
cm inch 

The shortfin mako (; Māori: /ˈmaːko/; Isurus oxyrinchus), also known as the shortfin mako shark, blue pointer, or bonito shark, is a large mackerel shark. It is commonly referred to as the mako shark, as is the longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus). The shortfin mako can reach a size of 4 m (13 ft) in length and weigh 570 kg (1,260 lb). The species is classified as Endangered by the IUCN.

Animal name origin

"Mako" comes from the Māori language, meaning either the shark or a shark tooth. Following the Māori language, "mako" in English is both singular and plural. The word may have originated in a dialectal variation, as it is similar to the common words for shark in a number of Polynesian languages—makō in the Kāi Tahu Māori dialect, mangō in other Māori dialects, mago in Samoan, ma'o in Tahitian, and mano in Hawaiian. The first written usage is in Lee and Kendall's Grammar and vocabulary of the language of New Zealand (1820), which simply states, "Máko; A certain fish". Richard Taylor's 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".In 1809, Constantine Rafinesque gave the short-fin mako the scientific name Isurus oxyrinchus (isurus means "the same tail", oxyrinchus means "pointy snout").
























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The shortfin mako shark is a fairly large species of shark. Growth rates appear to be somewhat accelerated in comparison to other species in the lamnid family. An average adult specimen measures around 2.5 to 3.2 m (8.2 to 10.5 ft) in length and weighs from 60–140 kg (130–310 lb). The species is sexually dimorphic, with females typically larger than males. Large specimens are known, with a few large, mature females exceeding a length of 3.8 m (12 ft) and a weight of 550 kg (1,210 lb). The largest taken on hook-and-line was 600 kg (1,300 lb), caught off the coast of California on June 3, 2013, and the longest verified length was 4.45 m (14.6 ft) caught off the Mediterranean coast of France in September 1973. A specimen caught off the coast of Italy and examined in an Italian fish market in 1881 was reported to weigh an extraordinary 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) at a length of 4 m (13 ft). Yet another fish was caught off Marmaris, Turkey in the late 1950s at an estimated size of between 5.7 and 6.19 m (18.7 and 20.3 ft) making it the largest known specimen of the species. However, this estimate was created using photos of the shark and not at the time of capture so this estimate must be taken with reasonable caution. The authors did not estimate a weight for this specimen.

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The shortfin mako shark is cylindrical in shape, with a vertically elongated tail. This species exhibits countershading, with brilliant metallic blue coloration dorsally and white ventrally. The line of demarcation between blue and white on the body is distinct. The underside of the snout and the area around the mouth are white. Larger specimens tend to possess darker coloration that extends onto parts of the body that would be white in smaller individuals. The juvenile mako differs in that it has a clear blackish stain on the tip of the snout. The longfin mako shark very much resembles the shortfin mako shark, but has larger pectoral fins, dark rather than pale coloration around the mouth and larger eyes. The presence of only one lateral keel on the tail and the lack of lateral cusps on the teeth distinguish the mako from the closely related porbeagle sharks of the genus Lamna.

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The shortfin mako inhabits offshore temperate and tropical seas worldwide. The closely related longfin mako shark is found in the Gulf Stream or warmer offshore waters (e.g. New Zealand and Maine).

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It is a pelagic species that can be found from the surface to depths of 150 m (490 ft), normally far from land, though occasionally closer to shore, around islands or inlets. One of the very few known endothermic sharks, it is seldom found in waters colder than 16 °C (61 °F).

In the western Atlantic, it can be found from Argentina and the Gulf of Mexico to Browns Bank off of Nova Scotia. In Canadian waters, these sharks are neither abundant nor rare. Swordfish are good indicators of shortfin mako populations, as the former are a source of food and prefer similar environmental conditions. The shark is one of the most commonly found in the waters of New Zealand.

Shortfin mako sharks travel long distances to seek prey or mates. In December 1998, a female tagged off California was captured in the central Pacific by a Japanese research vessel, meaning this fish traveled over 2,776 km (1,725 mi). Another specimen swam 2,128 km (1,322 mi) in 37 days, averaging 58 km (36 mi) a day.

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Shortfin mako shark habitat map

Climate zones

Shortfin mako shark habitat map
Shortfin mako shark
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Habits and Lifestyle

The shortfin mako is a fast species that can leap into the air when hooked, making it a highly sought-after game fish worldwide. Some cases of shortfin mako jumping into a boat after having been hooked have been reported.

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Shortfin mako sharks, as with most other sharks, are aged by sectioning vertebrae – one of the few bony structures in sharks – and counting growth bands. The age of shortfin mako, and therefore important parameters, such as age at sexual maturity and longevity, were severely underestimated until 2006 (e.g. claims of sexual maturity at 4–6 years, claims of longevity as low as 11 years), because of a poorly supported belief that shortfin mako sharks deposited two growth bands per year in their vertebrae. This belief was overturned by a landmark study which proved that shortfin mako sharks only deposit one band in their vertebrae per year, as well as providing validated ages for numerous specimens. Natanson et al. (2006) aged 258 shortfin mako specimens and recorded:

  • Maximum age of 29 years in males (260 cm or 8.5 ft fork length (FL))
  • Maximum age of 32 years in females (335 cm or 10.99 ft FL)
  • 50% sexual maturity at 8 years in males (185 cm or 6.07 ft FL)
  • 50% sexual maturity at 18 years in females (275 cm or 9.02 ft FL)

Similar, validated age findings were made (median age at maturity in males 7–9 years, median age at maturity in females 19–21 years, longevity estimates 29 years and 28 years respectively) in New Zealand waters.

Due to this error, fishery management models and ecological risk assessment models in use around the world were underestimating both the longevity and the age at sexual maturity in shortfin mako sharks, particularly in females, by two-thirds or more (i.e. 6 years versus 18+ years), and some of these inaccurate models remain in use.

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Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

The shortfin mako shark feeds mainly upon cephalopods and bony fish including mackerels, tunas, bonitos, and swordfish, but it may also eat other sharks, porpoises, sea turtles, and seabirds. They hunt by lunging vertically up and tearing off chunks of their preys' flanks and fins. Mako swim below their prey, so they can see what is above and have a high probability of reaching prey before it notices them. In Ganzirri and Isola Lipari, Sicily, shortfin mako have been found with amputated swordfish bills impaled into their head and gills, suggesting swordfish seriously injure and likely kill them. In addition, this location, and the late spring and early summer timing, corresponding to the swordfish's spawning cycle, suggests they hunt while the swordfish are most vulnerable, typical of many predators.

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Shortfin mako sharks consume 3% of their weight each day and take about 1.5–2.0 days to digest an average-sized meal. By comparison, the sandbar shark, an inactive species, 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 (26–129 in) suggest mako from Cape Hatteras to the Grand Banks prefer bluefish, constituting 77.5% of their diet by volume. The average capacity of the stomach was 10% of the total weight. Shortfin mako sharks consumed 4.3% to 14.5% of the available bluefish between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank.

Shortfin mako sharks over 3 m (9.8 ft) have interior teeth considerably wider and flatter than smaller mako, which enables them to prey effectively upon dolphins, swordfish, and other sharks. An amateur videotape, taken in Pacific waters, shows a moribund pantropical spotted dolphin whose tail was almost completely severed being circled by a shortfin mako. Mako also tend to scavenge long-lined and netted fish.

The bite of a shortfin mako shark is exceptionally strong; the current record for the strongest bite measured for any shark belongs to a shortfin mako that was recorded at Mayor Island in New Zealand in 2020. The shark had been coaxed into biting a custom-made "bite meter" as part of an experiment to measure mako bite force. The strongest bite recorded during the experiment was roughly 3,000 lbs. of force, or roughly 13,000 newtons.

Its endothermic constitution partly accounts for its relatively great speed.

Like other lamnid sharks, the shortfin mako shark has a heat-exchange circulatory system that allows the shark to be 4–5.5 °C (7–10 °F) warmer than the surrounding water. This system enables them to maintain a stable, very high level of activity, giving it an advantage over its cold-blooded prey.

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Mating Habits


The shortfin mako shark is a yolk-sac ovoviviparous shark giving birth to live young. Developing embryos feed on unfertilized eggs (oophagy) within the uterus during the 15- to 18-month gestation period. They do not engage in sibling cannibalism unlike the sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus). The four to 18 surviving young are born live in the late winter and early spring at a length of about 70 cm (28 in). Females may rest for 18 months after birth before mating again. Shortfin mako sharks bear young on average every three years.A common mating strategy of shortfin mako sharks has been documented as using multiple paternity as a mating strategy, known as polyandry. Polyandry is where the females mate with more than one male. This strategy is used to have a single brood sired by multiple males (multiple paternity) and is a common strategy in diverse taxa, including invertebrates and vertebrates.



The shortfin mako is currently classified as Endangered by the IUCN, having been uplisted from Vulnerable in 2019 and Near-Threatened in 2007. The species is included on Appendix II of CITES which regulates international trade. The species is being targeted by both sport and commercial fisheries, and there is a substantial proportion of bycatch in driftnet fisheries for other species. In June 2018, the New Zealand Department of Conservation classified the shortfin mako shark as "Not Threatened" with the qualifier "Uncertain whether Secure Overseas" under the New Zealand Threat Classification System. In 2019, the shortfin mako was reclassified by the IUCN from being listed as "Vulnerable" to "Endangered" after a review of 58 elasmobranch species.

Relationship with Humans

ISAF statistics records 9 shortfin attacks on humans between 1980 and 2022, three of which were fatal, along with 20 boat attacks. Many attacks involving shortfin mako sharks are considered to have been provoked due to harassment or the shark being caught on a fishing line. Divers who have encountered shortfin mako note, prior to an attack, they swim in a figure-eight pattern and approach with mouths open.

In captivity

Of all recorded attempts to keep pelagic shark species in captivity, the shortfin mako shark has fared the poorest, even more so than the blue shark and the great white shark. At SeaWorld San Diego, a 90 cm (3.0 ft) shortfin mako shark ability test failed in the early 1970s. In the summer of 1978, two mako sharks caught off the coast of San Diego failed to evade the wall and both died within three days. The current record is held by a specimen kept at the New Jersey Aquarium for only five days in 2001. Like past attempts at keeping Isurus in captivity, the animal appeared strong on arrival, but had trouble negotiating the walls of the aquarium, refused to feed, quickly weakened, and died.


1. Shortfin mako shark Wikipedia article -
2. Shortfin mako shark on The IUCN Red List site -

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