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The shortfin mako has a wide distribution. It is found
in tropical and temperate waters throughout the world's oceans. In North America
it ranges from California to Chile in the Pacific and from the Grand Banks to
the hump of Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea in the
Atlantic. It is commonly seen in offshore waters from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras.
In the eastern Atlantic the shortfin mako ranges from Norway to South Africa,
including the Mediterranean and it is found throughout the Indian Ocean from
South Africa to Australia. In the western Pacific it ranges from Japan to New
Zealand and in the central Pacific it occurs from the Aleutian Islands to the
Society Islands. Color is brilliant metallic blue dorsally and white ventrally.
The line of demarcation between blue and white on the body is distinct. The
underside of the snout and the area around the mouth are white. The latter is
important because is helps differentiate the shortfin from the longfin mako,
which has a darkly pigmented mouth region. Color is related to size. Larger
specimens tend to possess darker color that extends onto parts of the body that
are white in smaller individuals. The juvenile mako differs in that it has a
clear blackish stain on the tip of the snout.
The shortfin mako is the fastest shark, capable of attaining speeds of up
to 32 km/h (20 mph), and leaping skillfully out of the water. The mako holds the
speed record for long distance travel: approximately 2130 km (1320 miles) in 37
days for an average of about 58 km (36 miles) per day. The shortfin mako feeds
on other fast-moving pelagic fishes such as swordfish, tunas, and other sharks
as well as squid. The stomach contents of sharks caught in gillnets off Natal,
South Africa, showed a 60 to 40 ratio of shark to bony fish, while a study from
the northeastern United States found 77.5 percent of the mako diet was bluefish.
Marine mammals and sea turtles are rarely ingested by this species.Due to its
beauty, aggressiveness, and jumping ability, the shortfin mako is considered one
of the great gamefishes of the world. Shortfin makos are caught with trolled
baits and lures as well as with live or dead baits fished from anchored or
- The mouth is parabolic, or bowl-shaped, with the first
teeth of the lower jaw aligned in a continuous row. The large,
triangle-shaped, narrow hooked teeth have razor-sharp smooth edges. They are
blade-like without basal cusps or serrations. Teeth of both the upper and
lower jaw are roughly uniform in size and shape with the first two teeth on
either side of the mandibular symphyses being longer and more slender than the
rest. Teeth of the lower jaw are visible even when the jaw is shut while the
upper teeth remain partially hidden except when the jaw is projected outwards.
A) Upper and lower teeth of Isurus oxyrichusB) view of
anterior portion of jaw, ex Bigelow & Schroeder (1948) FNWA
Although oceanic species, the shortfin mako's power,
aggressiveness, teeth and great speed, make it a danger to humans. Shortfin
makos have been blamed for a number of nonfatal and fatal attacks on humans.
Divers who have encountered shortfin makos note that they swim in a figure eight
pattern and approach with mouths open prior to an attack. Shortfin makos
frequently damage boats and injure fishers after being hooked.
Jose Castro, a shark expert at the Mote Marine Laboratory
Center for Shark Research in Sarasota, noted makos are among the few of more
than 450 shark species that are commercially exploited.
Some anglers who heard of the Fort Myers Beach catch criticized McQuade and
Trammell on an Internet forum for killing a fish so rare in the Gulf. But Castro
discounted such worries.
“Makos are commercially caught by the sword fishing fleet and by most of the
tuna fleet in tremendous numbers, so one being caught by recreational fishermen
would have a negligible impact on the populations,” Castro said. “Thousands and
thousands of mako sharks are caught in the commercial fisheries.”