American Oceans

How Fast is a Mako Shark?

The mako shark, also known as the shortfin mako, is one of the fastest species of sharks in the ocean. With its sleek body and powerful muscles, this species is capable of reaching impressive speeds that allow it to chase down its prey with ease. But just how fast can a mako shark swim?

a fast mako shark swimming through the ocean

Studies have shown that the shortfin mako is capable of reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour (96.5 kilometers per hour). This makes it one of the fastest fish in the ocean, and even one of the fastest animals on the planet. To put this into perspective, the average speed of a human swimmer is around 5 miles per hour, while the top speed of a sailfish, another fast fish species, is around 68 miles per hour.

The mako shark’s speed is crucial for its survival, as it allows it to chase down its prey and avoid predators. Its streamlined body and powerful tail muscles, combined with its ability to regulate its body temperature, make it a formidable predator in the water. However, the mako shark’s speed also makes it a popular target for sports fishermen, and its population has declined in some areas due to overfishing.

Physical Characteristics

a mako shark showing its teeth

The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is considered one of the fastest marine fishes, reaching burst swimming speeds of up to 70 km/h. They are members of the mackerel shark family, which includes other species such as the longfin mako (Isurus paucus) and the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias). Shortfin makos are typically smaller than great whites, with an average length of around 3.2 meters (10.5 feet) and a weight of up to 300 pounds.

Body Structure

Makos have a streamlined body shape that is designed to reduce drag and flow separation. Their pectoral fins are long and narrow, and their gills are located on the sides of their head. They have scales that are small and smooth, which also helps with hydrodynamics. However, the most notable physical characteristic of mako sharks is their dermal denticles. These are small, tooth-like structures that cover their skin and help to reduce drag and turbulence in the water. Studies have shown that the denticles on the dorsal fin of the shortfin mako shark are particularly effective at improving hydrodynamic efficiency.

Compared to bony fish, mako sharks have a more rigid body structure and are less flexible. This rigidity is necessary for maintaining their speed and agility in the water. Makos are also endothermic, which means that they can regulate their body temperature and maintain a higher temperature than the surrounding water. This allows them to swim faster and for longer periods of time, making them one of the fastest and most efficient predators in the ocean.

Habitat and Distribution

a longfin mako shark swimming

Shortfin mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus) are found in temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are highly migratory and can travel long distances across open ocean.

In the western North Atlantic Ocean, mako sharks are known to inhabit waters from the Gulf of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. They are most commonly found in offshore waters, but can also be found closer to shore in areas with steep drop-offs.

In the Pacific Ocean, mako sharks are found from Alaska to Chile, and from Japan to Australia. They are commonly found in offshore waters, but also occur in inshore areas such as the Southern California Bight.

Mako sharks prefer warm water temperatures and are often found in areas with surface temperatures above 68°F (20°C). They are known to dive to depths of over 500 meters (1,640 feet) in search of prey, but are most commonly found in surface waters.

Mako Shark Speed and Hunting Techniques

Short fin mako shark swimming

The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is known for its incredible swimming speed, which is essential for its hunting techniques. According to a study by Carey et al. (2015), the mako shark can swim at a cruising speed of 22 miles per hour (35 kilometers per hour) and can reach bursts of up to 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour). This makes the mako shark one of the fastest sharks and fish in the ocean.

The mako shark’s swimming speed is achieved through a combination of its streamlined body, powerful muscles, and efficient swimming technique. The shark’s body shape reduces drag and allows it to move through the water with minimal resistance. Its muscles are also adapted for sustained swimming, with a high concentration of myoglobin that helps to store oxygen and fuel the shark’s activity.

Prey and Predators

The mako shark’s incredible swimming speed is essential for its hunting techniques, which typically involve pursuing and catching fast-moving prey such as mackerel, tuna, swordfish, and squid. The mako shark is known as the “cheetah of the ocean” due to its speed and agility.

The mako shark is also a predator itself, with few natural predators in the ocean. However, larger sharks such as the great white shark and tiger shark have been known to prey on the mako shark. The mako shark is also hunted by humans for its meat and fins, and is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to overfishing.

In addition to its predatory behavior, the mako shark is also a migratory species that can travel long distances in search of food and suitable habitat. Its body temperature is higher than that of the surrounding water, which helps it to maintain its muscles at an optimal temperature for swimming.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

a close up of a mako shark in the ocean

The shortfin mako shark is a viviparous species, meaning that the embryos develop inside the female and receive nourishment directly from her through a placenta-like structure. The gestation period for the shortfin mako is estimated to be around 15-18 months.

Female mako sharks become sexually mature at around 8-9 years of age, while males mature at around 4-5 years. The reproductive cycle of the shortfin mako appears to be around three years [3]. Parturition generally occurs from late winter to early spring.

During mating, the male mako shark bites onto the female’s pectoral fin or flank and inserts one of his claspers into her cloaca. The female may struggle initially but soon becomes listless.

The shortfin mako shark is an oophagous species, meaning that the embryos feed on unfertilized eggs produced by the mother, in addition to the nutrients provided by the placenta. This reproductive strategy is thought to be an adaptation to the long gestation period and low fecundity of the species.

Conservation Status

Mako Shark swimming near the surface of ocean

The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is a globally distributed species that inhabits both coastal and oceanic waters. Due to its speed, power, and agility, the shortfin mako is highly prized by commercial and recreational fishers. As a result, the species has been heavily exploited in many parts of its range, leading to concerns about its conservation status.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List currently lists the shortfin mako as a vulnerable species. This designation reflects the fact that the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, primarily due to overfishing. Shortfin makos are often caught as bycatch in longline and gillnet fisheries targeting other species, and they are also targeted directly for their meat, fins, and other products.

Efforts to conserve shortfin mako populations have focused on reducing fishing pressure through regulations and management measures. In some areas, fishing for shortfin makos is prohibited entirely. However, enforcement of these regulations can be difficult, particularly in regions with limited resources for monitoring and enforcement.

In addition to fishing pressure, shortfin mako populations may also be impacted by habitat degradation and climate change. The species is highly dependent on healthy ocean ecosystems, and changes in water temperature, acidity, and other factors could have significant impacts on its survival.

Threats and Human Interactions

a longfin mako shark swimming underwater

Mako sharks are known for their impressive speed and agility, which makes them a popular target for commercial and recreational fishing. However, human activities have also posed a significant threat to the survival of these sharks.

Shark Finning and Fishing

Shark finning, which involves cutting off the fins of live sharks and discarding the rest of the body, is a major threat to many shark species, including the mako shark. The fins are highly valued in some cultures for use in shark fin soup, and as a result, shark finning has led to a significant decline in shark populations worldwide.

Commercial and recreational fishing also pose a threat to mako sharks. These sharks are often caught as bycatch in longline and gillnet fisheries targeting other species, such as tuna and swordfish. In addition, mako sharks are also targeted directly for their meat, fins, and liver oil.

Mako Shark Attacks

a mako shark showing its teeth

Mako sharks are considered dangerous to humans, but attacks on humans are relatively rare. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there have been only 42 confirmed unprovoked mako shark attacks on humans worldwide, with only one of them being fatal.

Despite their reputation as dangerous predators, mako sharks are actually more threatened by human activities than humans are by them. It is important to focus on the risks that humans pose to mako sharks, rather than the other way around.

In addition to mako sharks, other shark species are also threatened by human activities, including overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution. The porbeagle shark, for example, is also a target of commercial fishing and is considered vulnerable to extinction.

Efforts to protect shark populations, such as implementing shark finning bans and creating marine protected areas, are crucial for the survival of these important predators.

Add comment