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What is a Mako Shark?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are actually two different kinds of mako shark, including a short-finned and long-finned variety. The long-finned type is not generally that well-known to science, while the short-finned sharks are very well-studied. Most makos are about 8-feet-long (2.4 meters), but some can be as large as 13 feet (about 4 meters). The sharks are gray or blue-colored with a white belly, and they're very thinly built with a reputation for tremendous speed in the water.

People often fish mako for recreation, and this has lessened the sharks' numbers somewhat. The mako shark isn’t often implicated in attacks on people because it normally prefers to stay pretty far from shore. Experts believe, however, the sharks could be dangerous if they came into contact with humans more frequently.

The biggest differences between the short-fin mako and the long-fin are generally related to the size of the fins and the color. The long-fin gets its name from the longer pectoral fins. It also has a slightly darker color than the short-fin mako. Experts theorize that the long-fin mako shark is more of a deep-water fish, and this may account for the smaller number of sightings. They’re also thought to be slower swimmers, although there is no undisputed proof of this theory.

These sharks have a wide habitat across most of the world's oceans. The shark generally prefers to stick to warmer waters, and some researchers think the sharks migrate to stay with the warm currents. The females give birth to live young, and there is a battle for dominance among all the unborn sharks. The stronger sharks actually eat the weaker ones as a natural part of the reproductive process so that only the most capable sharks survive.

The mako shark generally eats a varied diet. Most experts think they focus on fish, and it's commonly believed that they use their speed to catch some fish that most other sharks couldn’t handle. For example, they eat swordfish on occasion. Makos are also relatively large sharks, and they have the capacity to eat marine mammals, but experts believe this is a rare occurrence, especially for smaller makos. There is a theory that the very largest mako shark specimens may eat more marine mammals based on changes to their teeth as they reach massive size.

Makos are generally considered to be the fastest shark species in the world. Their bodies are streamlined so that they have minimal resistance from the water around them. There is strong evidence that they can reach over 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour), and some experts believe they can reach 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

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