The somewhat elusive mako shark is one of the ocean's top predators. These speed merchants have evolved to hunt some of the fastest fish in our oceans, live throughout the world's tropical and temperate oceans and have a very impressive family tree. Spending much of their time in the open ocean, away from many of the world's dive sites, mako sharks don't often cross paths with divers, which is all the more reason to understand these magnificent creatures. So, without further ado, discover our top ten mako shark facts and where to find them...

mako shark

1. Makos Are Related to Great Whites

Mako sharks and great white sharks are both members of the same family, Lamnidae. The family Lamnidae is a taxonomic grouping that includes several species of large, fast-swimming sharks known for their ruthless predatory capabilities. However, while both makos and great whites are part of the same family, they are two distinct species. For starters, great whites are much larger, while makos have smaller, streamlined bodies aiding in their impressive speed.

2. There Are Two Species of Mako Shark

After the 'family' level in the taxonomical hierarchy comes the 'genus' level. Mako sharks, specifically, belong to the Isurus genus. Within this genus, there are only two living species: the longfin mako shark (Isurus paucus) and the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus).The term Isurus is derived from the Greek word for 'equal tail,' referring to the crescent-shaped tail of mako sharks. This unique tail structure features upper and lower lobes of a similar size, a common trait among sharks that spend much of their time in the open ocean and rely on speed for catching their prey.

As their name suggests, longfin mako sharks have longer pectoral fins and slimmer bodies. These slight nuances in anatomy make them slower and less active than their shortfin counterparts, but no less deadly.

mako shark

3. Makos Are the Fastest Sharks

Thanks in part to their crescent-shaped tail, mako sharks are the fastest shark in the ocean, clocking in speeds of up to 46 miles per hour. While they can't keep that speed up over long distances, these explosive bursts of speed help them catch fast-moving prey. Generally, makos cruise at a leisurely pace of 31 mph.

4. Mako Sharks Are Warm-Blooded

Most fish are cold-blooded and therefore are not capable of metabolically producing heat. However, the Lamnidae family of sharks, like mako sharks, are warm-blooded and have special heat-producing muscles that allow them to spend extended periods in cooler waters.

mako shark

5. The Word ‘Mako’ Has Māori Roots

The word 'mako' originates from the Māori language of East Polynesia. In Māori, the word 'mako' signifies both 'shark' and 'shark tooth,' and sharks feature in many Polynesian tales and myths. One of these legends involves the ocean guardian known as Ruamano, who would take on the appearance of a mako shark. In the event of a waka (canoe) capsizing, the crew would call on Ruamano to get them safely to land.

6. Where to Find Mako Sharks

As pelagic species, both longfin and shortfin makos spend much of their time in the open ocean and are rarely encountered underwater, except in a few locations.

The Azores archipelago in Portugal is one of the best places in the world to see mako sharks. The Azores sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge above the junction of three tectonic plates: the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate. This triple junction of ridges acts as a navigational aid for megafauna crossing the Atlantic, including manta rays, whale sharks, and, of course, shortfin mako sharks.

mako shark

7. Mako Shark Diet

Thanks to their impressive top speeds, mako sharks are capable predators with a preference for some of the ocean's fastest fish. Their regular diet consists of cephalopods and larger fish, squid, mackerel, tuna, bonitos and swordfish. They have also been known to occasionally feed on other smaller sharks, but it's their ability to hunt and catch speedy swordfish that is perhaps the most impressive feat of their feeding habits.

8. Reproduction of the Mako Shark

Mako sharks are ovoviviparous, which means that they develop their eggs inside the uterus. The eggs hatch while still inside the shark, and those that are strong enough and lucky enough to be among the first to hatch will happily munch on their less fortunate unhatched siblings.

As horrific as this might sound, it's a good example of Darwin's survival-of-the-fittest theory in action, as the first to hatch will be stronger and larger, with a better chance of survival when they are finally born.

mako shark and divers

9. Mako Sharks Are Known by Different Names

In different regions, mako sharks are known by different common names. In Australia, where great whites are also sometimes called 'white pointers,' mako sharks are often referred to as 'blue pointers.' Other names you may hear include 'sharp-nosed mackerel shark' and 'bonito shark.'

10. You Can Drive a Mako Shark!

Total caveat: this is more a car fact than a mako shark fact but stick with us. The XP-755 concept car, manufactured by Corvette in 1961, was designed to look like a mako shark and became known as the Mako Shark I. The sleek lines mimic the contours of the shark's body, while the makos distinctive colour and the shark's colouration -[li1] a blue-grey upper body blending into the white underbelly - is recreated in the car's paint scheme. This original design was later revamped to become the XP-830 concept car, which became known as the Mako Shark II.

Bizarrely, the Mako Shark II further evolved into the Manta Ray concept car. Mako sharks are yet to be seen morphing into manta rays in real life...

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