Isurus oxyrinchusMackerel porbeagle

Geographic Range

Shortfin mako sharks are panoceanic, being found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Within the Pacific Ocean, shortfin makos are found in both the northern and southern hemispheres, along the coasts of North and South America (from the Aleutian Islands and southern California to Chile), from Primorskiy Kray in the Russian Federation to Austraila and New Zealand and in Indo-Pacific waters from East Africa to Hawaii. Within the Atlantic Ocean, shortfin makos are found from the Gulf of Maine to southern Brazil and Argentina, and from Norway to South Africa. This species is also found in the Mediterranean and Red Seas. These sharks can travel long distances and have been know to swim thousands of kilometers per month to seek prey or mates. (Cailliet, et al., 2009; Carpenter and Binohlan, 2013; McCord, 2012)


Shortfin mako sharks are pelagic and are typically found in surface waters up to depths of 150 meters, though they have been found as deep as 740 meters. Although these sharks can be found in many regions, they prefer to inhabit tropical and temperate offshore waters with temperatures from 17-20°C; however they can survive in water as cold as 5-11°C, as they are able to conserve heat within their bodies rather than losing it through their gills. (Bachleda, 2002; Cailliet, et al., 2009; Passarelli, et al., 1995)

  • Range depth
    1 to 740 m
    3.28 to 2427.82 ft
  • Average depth
    150 m
    492.13 ft

Physical Description

Shortfin mako sharks typically range in length from 3.2 m to 3.8 m, with females being larger than males. Adult weight ranages between 60 to 135 kg (females may reach 150 kg). Shortfin mako sharks have cylindrically shaped bodies, similar to those of great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias), and are streamlined, fast-moving creatures. Makos effectively and quickly propel themselves through water by using their vertically elongated, thick, powerful caudal fin. They have bluntly pointed snouts, long gill slits for obtaining oxygen, and black eyes. Body coloration is bright metallic blue dorsally and white ventrally (areas around the mouth and underneath the snout are also white), although each shark's colors vary slightly depending on age and size; juveniles have a black spot on the tip of their snouts. The teeth are large, conical and extremely sharp, projecting outside the mouth when it is closed. The pectoral fins are quite small (shorter than the length of the head). (Carpenter and Binohlan, 2013; Passarelli, et al., 1995)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    60 to 150 kg
    132.16 to 330.40 lb
  • Range length
    3.2 to 3.8 m
    10.50 to 12.47 ft


These sharks are ovoviviparous. Embryos develop, nourished by egg yolk in egg sacs, in their mother's uterus (there is no placental connection). Young hatch into the uterus and exhibit oophagy (more developed fetuses may cannibalize eggs and less developed siblings). While in utero, the teeth, organs, lateral line, and other important structures develop. After 15-18 months, a litter is born, ranging from 4-16 pups at an average size of 68-70 cm. Juveniles are independent and grow quickly at first, though sexual maturity is not achieved until at least 8 years of age for males and 18 years of age for females. (Carpenter and Binohlan, 2013; Costa, et al., 2002; Natanson, et al., 2006; Passarelli, et al., 1995)


Little information on mating exists for this species, but as is the case for other lamnid sharks, breeding is promiscuous, with no pair bonds formed. This species shows marked sexual segregation in some areas; adult males and females are seldom found together, possibly caused by females avoiding of males due to potential reduced fitness. Courtship and mating are thought to take place during late summer and early fall and, judging from female scars, is quite violent, involving males biting females' bellies, flanks, gill regions and pectoral fins. There is some evidence that females return to birthing and nursery sites repeatedly, such as the Southern California Bight, Strait of Gibraltar, and the area between 17-35°S off the coast of Brazil. (Cailliet, et al., 2009; Costa, et al., 2002; Martin, 2003; Mucientes, et al., 2009)

Males and females of this species become sexually mature at different ages. Females reach maturity at about 3 meters in length (approximately 18 years of age) and males at approximately 2 meters in length (8 years of age). There is evidence that breeding takes place during late summer and early fall months. Gestation period ranges from 15-19 months and young are typically born during spring (May-June or November, depending on hemisphere). Young are born at an average length of about 70 cm; litters may range in size from 4-25 but not all survive to birth due to oophagy. After birth, females rest for 18 months before reproducing again, leading to a reproductive cycle length of 2-3 years. ("Shortfin Mako Sharks, Isurus oxyrinchus", 2012; Joung and Hsu, 2005; Martin, 2003)

  • Breeding interval
    Shortfin mako sharks produce a litter every 2-3 years.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding is thought to take place during late summer and early fall months.
  • Range number of offspring
    8 to 10
  • Range gestation period
    4 to 25 months
  • Average gestation period
    9 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    18 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8 years

Embryos and young develop inside females and are born resembling very small adults. Following birth, there is no further female parental investment. Males exhibit no parental investment. (Passarelli, et al., 1995)


Age is estimated using vertebral growth bands; although it was once held that two such bands were laid down each year, recent work has shown that only one band is produced per year. Therefore, average lifespan is now estimated at 29-32 years, twice what was once thought. Females tend to live longer than males. Makos do not tend to survive capture, and none have ever been born in captivity. (Cailliet, et al., 2009; Natanson, et al., 2006; Passarelli, et al., 1995)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 days
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    32 to 29 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 days
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    25 years


Shortfin mako sharks are warm bodied and extremely active. They are fast, strong swimmers, capable of reaching speeds up to 32 km/hour, and are known to leap out of the water when hooked on a line. They can travel up to 55 kilometers per day and seem to follow warm waters within any given geographic area, though there is little evidence of large scale migrations. Some populations show signs of sexual segregation and, generally speaking, individuals are solitary. Unprovoked attacks on divers are rare because the sharks are found well offshore. They are, however, known to become aggressive around speared fish. These sharks spend most of their time in mixed layers, with infrequent excursions below the thermocline. (Carrier, et al., 2010; Mucientes, et al., 2009; Passarelli, et al., 1995)

Home Range

This is a non-territorial, pelagic species. Little is known about the size of their home ranges. (Mucientes, et al., 2009)

Communication and Perception

Shortfin mako sharks are generally solitary; little is known specifically about how they may communicate with each other. These sharks have a well-developed sense of smell, with a pair of nares located underneath the snout. As water enters the nares, it passes over olfactory lamellae, which bear neurosensory cells. These sharks also have excellent eyesight; millions of rod cells, combined with a tapetum lucidum (to reflect light back into the retina) give them high light sensitivity and keen vision in low light conditions. They are also able to feel their way around their environments via tactile methods (nerve endings covering their skin, teeth, jaws and mouth). In addition, these sharks use their lateral line organs to sense changes in water pressure and movement. Shortfin mako sharks, like all chondrichthyans, have electrosensory organs known as Ampullae of Lorenzini which can be used to sense prey and possibly aid in navigation. ("Species Information - An introduction to Chondrichthyes / Cartilaginous fish", 2010; "About Sharks: Shark Senses", 2013)

Food Habits

Shortfin mako sharks are at the top of the marine food chain, making them apex predators. Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) have been shown to make up about 92% of their diet (by weight) in the northwest Atlantic. Generally, prey include other fish and elasmobranchs, cephalopods and, occasionally marine mammals. Recorded prey includes Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus), Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus), albacore (Thunnus alalunga), swordfish (Xiphias gladius), squid (Loligo pealeii and Illex illecebrosus), dolphins (Delphinus capensis), green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), and unidentified small cetaceans. ("Pelagic Shark Research Foundation", 1990; Martin, 2003; Passarelli, et al., 1995; Wood, et al., 2008)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • fish
  • mollusks


Shortfin mako sharks display pelagic countershading to conceal them from potential predators such as great white sharks and killer whales. Humans are probably the most frequent predator of these sharks. ("Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark", 2012; Passarelli, et al., 1995)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Shortfin makos are a vital part of oceanic ecosystems. As top-level predators, they eat smaller predators, affecting populations of other prey organisms lower in the food chain. They also control spatial distributions of prey by switching prey when the supply of one becomes low, helping to maintain diversity in a given environment. They are known to have remoras associated with them, which help to keep populations of ectoparasitic copepods in check. ("Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark", 2012; Mucientes, et al., 2008; Passarelli, et al., 1995; Rokicki and Morozinska, 1995)

Mutualist Species
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As one of the fastest sharks, shortfin mako sharks are desirable trophy fish. Additionally, their fins, flesh, and liver oil are sold in Asian markets. (Passarelli, et al., 1995)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

According the to Global Shark Attack Directory, there have only been three reports of Shortfin mako attacks on humans since 1974, therefore it is not considered a great natural threat to humans. They are known to damage boats and fishers after being hooked. ("Global Shark Accident File", 2012; Passarelli, et al., 1995)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists this species as vulnerable, with a decreasing population. This decrease can be directly linked to overfishing, as well as their presence in bycatch of albacore (Thunnus alalunga) and broadbill swordfish (Xiphias gladius). The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has included this species on their list of managed pelagic sharks and reduced the number of catches, both commercial and recreational, allowed per year in the U.S. and Gulf waters by 50% in the hope of protecting this species. However, other populations outside the authority of the USNMFS are still vulnerable. ("Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark", 2012; Cailliet, et al., 2009; ; Passarelli, et al., 1995)


Madison Bridge (author), San Diego Mesa College, Roderick Knighten (author), San Diego Mesa College, Sara Tullgren (author), San Diego Mesa College, Paul Detwiler (editor), San Diego Mesa College, Jeremy Wright (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

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Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

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living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.


active at dawn and dusk


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


uses electric signals to communicate

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

keystone species

a species whose presence or absence strongly affects populations of other species in that area such that the extirpation of the keystone species in an area will result in the ultimate extirpation of many more species in that area (Example: sea otter).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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reproduction in which eggs develop within the maternal body without additional nourishment from the parent and hatch within the parent or immediately after laying.


An aquatic biome consisting of the open ocean, far from land, does not include sea bottom (benthic zone).


an animal that mainly eats fish


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


Shark Trust. 2013. "About Sharks: Shark Senses" (On-line). Shark Trust. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

2012. "Global Shark Accident File" (On-line). Global Shark Attack Directory. Accessed October 10, 2012 at

2012. "Pacific Shortfin Mako Shark" (On-line). NOAA - FishWatch. Accessed September 20, 2012 at

1990. "Pelagic Shark Research Foundation" (On-line). Shortfin Mako Shark-Isurus oxyrinchus. Accessed October 24, 2012 at

2012. "Shortfin Mako Sharks, Isurus oxyrinchus" (On-line). MarineBio. Accessed September 20, 2012 at

SHARKLAB Malta. 2010. "Species Information - An introduction to Chondrichthyes / Cartilaginous fish" (On-line). Sharklab Malta. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

Bachleda, F. 2002. Dangerous Wildlife in California & Nevada: A Guide to Safe Encounters at Home and in the Wild. Birmingham, AL: Menasha Ridge Press. Accessed October 04, 2012 at

Cailliet, G., R. Cavanagh, D. Kulka, J. Stevens, A. Soldo. 2009. "Isurus Oxyrinchus" (On-line). ICUN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed October 24, 2012 at

Carpenter, K., C. Binohlan. 2013. "Isurus oxyrinchus (Rafinesque, 1810): Shortfin mako" (On-line). Fishbase. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

Carrier, J., J. Musick, M. Heithaus. 2010. Sharks and Their Relatives II. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Costa, F., F. Braga, C. Arfelli, A. Amorim. 2002. Aspects of the reproductive biology of the Shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, (Elasmobranchii, Lamnidae) in the southeastern region of Brazil. Brazillian Journal of Biology, 62/2: 239-248. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

Joung, S., H. Hsu. 2005. Reproduction and embryonic development of the shortfin mako, lsurus oxyrinchus Rafinesque, 1810, in the northwestern Pacific. Zoological Studies, 44: 10. Accessed October 24, 2012 at

Martin, R. 2003. "Biology of the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)" (On-line). Biology of Sharks and Rays: ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

McCord, M. 2012. "Shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)" (On-line). Accessed November 16, 2012 at

Mucientes, G., N. Queiroz, L. Sousa, P. Tarroso, D. Sims. 2009. Sexual segregation of pelagic sharks and the potential threat from fisheries. Biology Letters, rsbl.2008.0761: rsbl.2008.0761. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

Mucientes, G., N. Queiroz, S. Pierce, I. Sazima, J. Brunnschweiler. 2008. Is Host Ectoparasite Load Related to Echeneid Fish Presence?. Research Letters in Ecology, 2008: doi:10.1155/2008/107576.

Natanson, L., N. Kohler, D. Ardizzone, G. Cailliet, S. Wintner, H. Mollet. 2006. Validated age and growth estimates for the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, in the North Atlantic Ocean. Environmental Fish Biology, 77: 367-383. Accessed February 19, 2013 at

Passarelli, N., C. Knickle, K. DiVittorio. 1995. "Florida Museum of Natural History" (On-line). Shortfin Mako. Accessed October 24, 2012 at

Rokicki, J., J. Morozinska. 1995. Parasitic Copepods from Isurus oxyrinchus Rafinesque, 1810, from the Central Atlantic Ocean. Crustaceana, 68/1: 21-26.

Wood, A., B. Wetherbee, F. Juanes, N. Kohler, C. Wilga. 2008. Recalculated diet and daily ration of the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), with a focus on quantifying predation on bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Fish Bulletin, 107: 76-88. Accessed February 19, 2013 at