Shortfin Mako Shark fact file

Learn more about the speediest sharks in the ocean.

30th August 2023

Wildlife conservation shouldn’t be a beauty contest. There are endangered species who don’t always get the love they deserve because of how they look, but we believe every species deserves a happy and healthy future…

So, Animal Friends Insurance has teamed up with the Shark Trust to create this fun fact file all about the shortfin mako shark!

What are they?

Mako sharks are fish.

More specifically, shortfin mako sharks are part of a family called ‘mackerel sharks’, who share characteristics such as a pointed nose and very large teeth.

Where are they from?

As an oceanic species, the shortfin mako shark can be found across all oceans.

In fact, mako sharks have even been found in seas surrounding the UK!

What’s their average life span?

Amazingly, shortfin mako sharks can live for between 28 and 32 years.

How big are they?

Being up to 13ft in length, the shortfin mako shark is about as long as a Volkswagen Beetle car!

What do they look like?

With their dark, circular eyes, pointy nose, and jagged teeth, you’d be forgiven for feeling frightened at the sight of a mako shark!

If you look closer, however, you’ll notice that the mako shark has distinct metallic blue and shimmering silver skin along the upper half of their body, which graduates into their bright white underside. Their sleek appearance is what makes mako sharks so swift underwater, but it is also what makes them one of the most strikingly beautiful sharks to see.

How do they feel to touch?

Shortfin mako sharks are very smooth one way and rough the other. The ‘rough’ feeling of a mako shark’s skin is due to millions of tiny teeth-like scales that point backwards, allowing the shark to move faster through water.

How fast are they?

Travelling up to an incredible 45mph allows the shortfin mako shark to catch their prey – especially tuna and swordfish, who are the fastest fish in the world!

What do they eat?

As carnivores, mako sharks eat bony fish, cetaceans (marine mammals), and cephalopods (molluscs without a backbone), including:

  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Tuna
  • Swordfish
  • Porpoises
  • Squid

Are they nocturnal?

No, although sharks don’t sleep the same way as humans.

Scientists believe mako sharks can ‘switch off’ half of their brain, to allow themselves to sleep while swimming!

Do they mate for life?

No, shortfin mako sharks do not mate for life.

Do they live in groups?

They may enjoy a solo existence in the open ocean, but female shortfin mako sharks can reproduce from 18 years of age and can give birth – once every three years – to as many as 4-25 live pups (baby sharks) after 15-18 months’ gestation (pregnancy).

Mako sharks don’t have the same sort of pregnancy as mammals, however. Shortfin mako shark mothers will carry eggs that hatch before she gives birth (they are ‘ovoviviparous’).

Even though mako shark mothers don’t care for their babies after giving birth, their shark pups are tough – at 2ft long, there aren’t many predators who’ll want to mess with them!

Are they intelligent?

Yes, mako sharks are highly intelligent.

In fact, mako sharks have one of the biggest brain-to-body ratios of all shark species! Although a larger size doesn’t always mean more intelligence, the mako shark has been observed using their body to ram prey before eating it. This suggests that sharks are capable of learning and adapting their behaviour to suit different situations.

Why are they important?

As a top predator, shortfin mako sharks help maintain balance in the food chain, by regulating prey populations and preying on the weak or diseased.

What are the risks if they become extinct?

If shortfin mako sharks become extinct, the diseased prey they’d normally eat would spread illness to other species. The spread of disease within prey animals can have a negative impact on the wider food chain and ecosystems.

How many are there? Are they in danger?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists shortfin mako sharks as endangered.

Due to their range and the challenges of studying species in the open ocean, it can be difficult to monitor the population of shortfin mako sharks.

What is their rate of decline?

Although it’s difficult to give an exact number due to their vast geographic range, the estimated rate of decline in shortfin mako shark populations could be as much as 50-79%.

Why are they declining?

As with many shark species, the mako shark population has been put at risk because they are valued for their meat and fins, and are being overfished (catching so many fish that their population struggles to recover).

Also, many of these sharks become ‘bycatch’, which means they’re accidentally caught in commercial fishing nets and thrown back into the sea.

Shark and ray species have declined by 71% in the last 50 years, with a third of sharks and rays now threatened with extinction.  While there is still much more to do to protect these incredible creatures, they are no longer allowed to be fished in the Atlantic.

Fun facts from the Shark Trust

  1. The small scales on the mako’s skin are called ‘dermal denticles’, and they enable mako sharks to swim faster.
  2. Shortfin mako sharks have long, pointy teeth that are specially designed for catching super-fast fish.
  3. They are the speediest sharks in the ocean!

Who is the Shark Trust?

The Shark Trust was established in 1997, to safeguard the future of sharks through science, education, and action.

Alongside their global shark conservation work, the Shark Trust invites everyone to get involved in saving sharks through their citizen science projects.

For more information, visit the Shark Trust charity page.