Animal Species:Shortfin Mako, Isurus oxyrinchus Rafinesque, 1810

The Shortfin Mako is believed to be the fastest of all sharks and can be found worldwide in tropical and temperate waters.  Despite being primarily an oceanic species, it is considered to be dangerous to people.

Standard Common Name

Shortfin Mako

Alternative Name/s

Blue Pointer, Mackerel Shark, Mako, Mako Shark, Snapper Shark

Identification

The Shortfin Mako has a pointed snout and long, slender teeth that protrude from the mouth. The second dorsal and anal fins are small and the caudal fin is lunate. There is a single keel on the caudal peduncle.

The upper surface of the body is indigo blue, abruptly changing to lighter blue on the sides and white below.

Shortfin Makos can be distinguished from White Sharks by several characters.  The teeth in the upper jaw are smooth-edged and slender, whereas those of the White Shark are flattened, serrated and triangular (although narrower in juveniles). The colouration of the Shortfin Mako (see above), differs from the White shark, which is blue-grey, grey-brown or bronze above with an abrupt change of colour to white below.

Size range

It grows to about 4 m in length.

Distribution

The species occurs worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. In Australia it is recorded from the marine waters of all States, but has not been caught in the Northern Territory.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Isurus oxyrinchus

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Shortfin Mako specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?

Habitat

The species occurs primarily in tropical waters (above 16 degrees Centigrade), but is known from both tropical and temperate waters circumglobally. It is found in both oceanic and continental waters from the surface to depths of at least 150 m.

Feeding and Diet

Dietary items include mainly bony fishes and cephalopods. Large individuals over 3 m in length are known to take larger prey such as billfishes and small cetaceans.

Other behaviours and adaptations

The Shortfin Mako is believed to be the fastest of all sharks. Like other lamnid sharks, it has a heat exchange circulatory system that enables the body to be warmer than the surrounding water and thus maintain a high level of activity. When hooked, the Shortfin Mako can make spectacular leaps out of the water.

Danger to humans and first aid

The Shortfin Mako has been known to attack boats and injure fishers after being hooked. Despite being primarily an oceanic species, it is considered to be dangerous to people. It has been implicated in both fatal and nonfatal attacks on humans.

Classification

Species:
oxyrinchus
Genus:
Isurus
Family:
Lamnidae
Order:
Lamniformes
Class:
Chondrichthyes
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 292.
  2. Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & G.R. Allen.  2006.  Fishes.  In Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia.  Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing: Australia. parts 1-3, Pp. 1-2178.
  3. Hutchins, B. & R. Swainston. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete Field Guide for Anglers and Divers. Swainston Publishing. Pp. 180.
  4. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Edition 2. CSIRO. Pp. 644, Pl. 1-91.
  5. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 557.
  6. Stevens, J.D. in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
Last Updated:

Tags fish, ichthyology, Shortfin Mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, pelagic, Lamnidae, tropical water, temperate water, marine, adult, Blue Pointer, Mackerel Shark, Mako, Mako Shark, Snapper Shark, pointed snout, long teeth, blue, smooth teeth, light blue underside, > 2m, fastest shark,