The shortfin mako shark is a medium-sized shark living in tropical and temperate waters around the world. The shortfin mako shark is a subspecies of the mako shark species that has two main subspecies. Along with the shortfin mako shark, the longfin mako shark is part of the same species. The longfin subspecies is larger and rarer than the shortfin subspecies. Shortfin makos have a special circulatory system that allows the shark’s body to be warmer than the surrounding water. This lets the shark be more active. The top of this shark’s body is a metallic blue, while the bottom side and the area around its mouth are both white. Another difference between the shortfin mako sharks and longfin mako sharks is that the longfin subspecies does not have as much white as this animal does. Other names for the longfin mako shark include blue pointer, mackerel shark, or snapper shark.
Shortfin Makos are not extremely big as sharks go. They grow to an average length of 13.1 feet (4 m). One interesting fact about these sharks is that they grow almost twice as quickly as most of the other sharks in their family. The maximum weight for theses creatures is about 1,260 pounds (572 kg).
This shark preys mainly on bony fish, including mackerel and tuna. They may also eat cartilaginous fish such as sharks and swordfish, or they may eat aquatic animals other than fish, like porpoises, dolphins, squid, and sea turtles.
Range and Habitat
Mako sharks inhabit waters in the middle half of the earth. Their northernmost points are around the southern parts of Norway and Alaska. The southern part of their range extends past Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific, and goes past all of Africa. The southern tip of South America, however, is not a part of their range. Although the shortfin mako is pelagic, meaning it inhabits the deep sea, it is sometimes found near shore. These sharks are typically found at depths of up to 500 feet (152 m), but they have been seen as deep as 2,500 feet (762 m) below the ocean’s surface. There is some evidence that suggests that these animals migrate seasonally to inhabit warmer waters. This theory has been supported by research done on tagged individuals.
Status and threats
THe IUCN Redlist classifies the Shortfin Mako as ‘Vulnerable’ on its threatened species list. These sharks are caught both as targeted catch and as by-catch. It is most frequently by-catch in the tuna and swordfish fisheries. This is probably because these fish are common prey of the shortfin mako shark. Because they are valued for their high-quality meat, these fish are caught for their fins to be used in the Shark Fin Soup of the Orient. Their jaws and teeth are prized as ornaments; its liver oil is used in vitamins, and its skin can be used to make leather.
One of the Shortfin Mako shark’s natural modes of protection is its extreme speed. They are thought to be capable of a sustained speed as fast as 22 miles (35 km) per hour. Although this may not seem very fast, it is fast compared to most aquatic animals. They can also swim in bursts of up to 50 miles (80 km) per hour. Mako sharks also have the ability to leap up to 20 feet (6 m) out of the water!
The United States has implemented some restrictions on the commercial and recreational fishing of the shortfin mako shark. These restrictions apply only in the waters close to the United States. Other populations of these sharks are still very much at risk to over-fishing.
Reproduction and young
Surprisingly little is known about the reproduction habits of mako sharks. This is partly due to the females aborting the embryos on capture. Once the first young hatch, they start feeding on the unfertilized or undeveloped eggs. This practice of cannibalism before birth is known as oophagy. Because the young do not eat each other, only the eggs, litters can contain up to 25 young each. They are born live in late winter or early spring after a gestation period of up to one and a half years. Right after being born, the young, which are then about 28 inches (70 cm) long, grow relatively quickly. The growth rate slows down after a while. It is thought that females wait up to eighteen months after giving birth before breeding again. Females mature at the age of 17-19 years, while males mature about ten years sooner at 7-9 years of age. The maximum known age for a shortfin mako shark is 32 years.
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- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
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