The mako shark looks menacing and intimidating even compared to most other sharks, and for good reason – they are indeed one of the most dangerous to humans. Mako is capable of capsizing boats, jumping high out of the water and dragging people along with her. But this only increases the interest of fishermen in it: it is very honorable to catch such a formidable fish.
The origin of the species and description
Mako (Isurus) is one of the genera of the herring family, and the closest relatives of the famous white shark – a huge predator notorious for attacks on humans.
The ancestors of sharks swam the seas of our planet long before the dinosaurs – in the Silurian period . Such ancient predatory fish as cladoselachia, giboda, stetacanthus and others are known – although it is not exactly established which of them gave rise to modern sharks.
By the Jurassic period, they reached their peak, many species appeared that were already exactly related to sharks. It was at these times that a fish appeared, which is considered the direct ancestor of the mako – Isurus hastilus. It was one of the dominant marine predators of the Cretaceous period and was larger than its descendants – it grew up to 6 meters in length, and its weight could reach 3 tons.
Video: Mako shark
It had the same features as modern mako – a combination of speed, strength and maneuverability made this fish an excellent hunter, and among larger predators, almost no one dared to attack it. Of modern species, Isurus oxyrinchus, known simply as the mako shark, primarily belongs to the mako genus. She received a scientific description in 1810 in the work of Rafenesk.
Also, the species paucus belongs to the genus Isurus, that is, the long-finned mako, described in 1966 by Guitar-Mandey. Sometimes a third species, glaucus, is also distinguished, but the question of whether to consider it separate is still debatable. The longfin mako differs from the common one in that it prefers to live closer to the shore and cannot swim as fast.
Appearance and features
Mako are 2.5-3.5 meters long, the largest ones are over 4 meters. Weight can reach 300-450 kilograms. The head is conical, in proportion to the body, but the eyes are much larger than usual in sharks, it is by them that the mako is easy to distinguish.
The back is dark, it can be gray or bluish, the sides are a brighter blue. The belly is much lighter, almost white. The body is streamlined and elongated like a torpedo – thanks to this, the mako can reach speeds of up to 60-70 km/h in jerks, and when it needs to catch up with prey and pursue it for quite a long time, it is able to keep the pace at 35 km/h.
It has powerful fins: a crescent-shaped caudal fin provides a quick set of speed, and those located on the back and belly are needed to maneuver, and allow it to be done very efficiently. The dorsal fins are different in size: one is large, the second, closer to the tail, is half as large.
The flexible scales on the body give the mako the ability to perfectly feel the flow of water and navigate it, even if the water is cloudy. In addition to high speed, they are also maneuverable: it takes moments for this shark to change direction or even turn in the opposite direction.
The teeth are bent inside the mouth, the incisors look like daggers and are very sharp, with their help, mako can gnaw through bones . Also, the shape of the teeth allows you to firmly hold the prey, no matter how it breaks out. This is the difference between mako teeth and those endowed with a white shark: it tears its prey into pieces, mako usually swallows it whole.
The teeth grow in several rows, but only the front is used, and the rest are needed in case of loss of teeth from it, even when the mako’s mouth is closed, its teeth are visible, which gives it a particularly menacing appearance.
Now you know how looks like a mako shark. Let’s find out what seas and oceans it lives in.
Where does the mako shark live?
You can meet them in three oceans:
They love warm water, which determines the boundaries of their range: it extends to the seas lying in tropical and subtropical latitudes, and partly those in temperate latitudes.
In the north, they can swim as far as the Canadian coast in the Atlantic Ocean or the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific, but it is quite rare to meet them so far north. Mako swim in the northern latitudes if there are a lot of swordfish – this is one of their favorite delicacies, for which you can endure cold water. But for a comfortable living, they need a temperature of 16 ° C.
In the south, they are found up to the seas washing Argentina and Chile, as well as the southern coast of Australia. There are many mako in the western Mediterranean – it is believed that this is one of their main breeding grounds, chosen because there are fewer predators. Another such authentically known place is located near the Brazilian coast.
Usually mako live at a distance from the coast – they love space. But sometimes they do get closer – for example, when you can’t get enough for a long time. There is more prey near the shore, even if it is mostly unusual for mako. They also swim towards the shore during breeding season.
In the coastal zone, mako becomes very dangerous for people: if many other sharks are afraid to attack and can hesitate for a long time before that, so that they can be seen, and some even attack only by mistake, in bad weather, then mako do not think at all and do not give a person time to escape.
They do not like to swim to great depths – as a rule, they stay no more than 150 meters from the surface, most often 30-80 meters. But they are prone to migration: mako can swim thousands of kilometers in search of the best places for feeding and breeding.
An interesting fact: Mako is so highly valued by fishermen as a trophy, not only because of its size and danger, but also because it fights to the last, and it will take a lot of time and effort to pull it out. She starts jumping, making zigzags, checking the attention of the fisherman, releasing and sharply pulling the line again. Finally, she can just rush at him with her dagger-teeth.
What does the mako shark eat?
Basis of her diet:
- smaller sharks, including other makos;
First of all, it hunts schooling fish of large and medium sizes. But mako requires a large amount of energy, and therefore it is hungry almost all the time, so the list of its potential prey is far from being limited to the listed ones – these are just preferred victims. In general, any living creature that is close to it is in danger.
Yes, and the distance will not be an obstacle if the mako smells blood – like most other sharks, it catches the smell of even a small amount of it from afar, after which it rushes to the source. The constant search for prey, strength and speed ensured mako fame as one of the most dangerous predators of the warm seas.
They can attack prey of large sizes, sometimes comparable to their own. But such a hunt is dangerous: if during its course the mako gets hurt and weakens, its blood will attract other sharks, including relatives, and they will not stand on ceremony with it, but will attack and eat it.
By and large, the mako menu can include almost everything that can be eaten. In addition, they are inquisitive, and often try to bite an unfamiliar object just to find out what it tastes like. Therefore, inedible things are often found in their stomachs, most often from boats: fuel supplies and containers for it, gear, appliances. It also feeds on carrion. May follow large vessels for long periods of time, eating their debris.
An interesting fact: the great writer Ernest Hemingway knew well what he wrote about in The Old Man and the Sea: he himself was an avid angler and once he managed to catch a mako weighing about 350 kilograms – at that time it was a record.
Character and lifestyle features
The bloodthirstiness of the mako is not inferior to the white shark, and even surpasses it – it is less known only because it is quite rare off the coast, and it does not encounter people so often. But even so, she earned a bad reputation: mako can both hunt swimmers and even attack boats.
They are distinguished by the ability to jump high out of the water: they are able to jump 3 meters above its level, or even higher. Such a jump is very dangerous for a fishing boat: often the shark’s interest in it is attracted by the smell of the blood of the caught fish. She is not afraid of people and is able to fight for this prey, and if the boat is small, she will most likely just turn it over.
This makes it a serious threat to ordinary fishermen, but this feature of the mako is pleasant for fans of extreme fishing, aimed precisely at catching it itself: of course, you will need a larger boat, and still the operation will be dangerous, but in places where such sharks accumulate, it is not difficult to lure it.
Moreover, her sense of smell is very good, and she feels victims from afar, and if blood gets into the water, mako immediately attracts it. She is among the most dangerous of sharks: in terms of the total number of victims, she is inferior to several other species, but only because they are rarely found near the coast, but in terms of aggressiveness they are superior.
If a mako is seen near the shore, often the beaches are closed immediately, because it becomes too dangerous – until the time when she is caught, or her appearances will stop, that is, she will swim away. Mako’s behavior is sometimes just crazy: she can attack not only in the water, but even on a person standing near the shore, if she can swim close.
In the open sea, mako turn boats over, push fishermen off them and kill them already in the water , or even demonstrate miracles of agility, jumping out of the water and grabbing a person when they fly over a boat – quite a few such cases have been described.
Social structure and reproduction
More In total, they are found singly, gathering in groups only during mating seasons. There are also cases of attacks by flocks of mako sharks of a dozen individuals – and yet such behavior is considered quite rare. They can only gather together with an abundance of food, and even so the group will not be permanent, after a while it will fall apart.
Ovoviviparous, fry hatch from eggs directly in the mother’s uterus. The embryos do not feed from the placenta, but from the yolk sac. After that, they begin to eat those eggs, the inhabitants of which were not lucky enough to linger with the appearance. The fry do not stop at this and begin to eat each other, while growing and developing all the time.
As a result of such strict selection, even before birth, 16-18 months after conception, an average of 6-12 sharks remain, possessing everything necessary for survival. They are already fully developed, nimble and with the instincts of a born predator. All this will come in handy, because from the first days they will have to get food on their own – their mother will not even think about feeding them.
This also applies to protection – the shark that gave birth leaves its offspring to the mercy of fate, and if it meets it again in a week or two, it will try to eat it. Other mako, the rest of the sharks, and many other predators will try to do the same – because the sharks have a hard time, only speed and briskness help out. Mako is already a good development. The fact is that they do not grow too fast: to reach the age of puberty, the male needs 7-8 years, and the female is much longer – 16-18 years. In addition, the female reproductive cycle lasts three years, which is why if the population is damaged, then recovery will be very difficult.
Natural enemies of mako sharks
Adults have almost no dangerous enemies in nature, although fights with other sharks are possible, most often of the same species. This is the greatest danger to makos, since cannibalism is practiced among almost all types of sharks. Killer whales or crocodiles can also be dangerous for them, but fights between them are very rare.
For growing individuals, there are much more threats: at first, almost any predator larger than them can hunt them. A young mako is already very dangerous, but her main advantage, until she grows up, remains speed and briskness – she often has to save herself.
But the main enemy of both young and adult mako is man. They are considered a serious trophy, and fishing on them is often fun. So much so that it is considered the main reason for the decline in their population: fishermen take advantage of the fact that makos are easy to lure.
Interesting fact: mako meat is highly valued, it is served in restaurants in Asia and Oceania. You can cook it in different ways: boil, fry, stew, dry. Shark steaks are widely known, and mako meat is one of the best options for them.
It is baked in breadcrumbs, served with mushroom sauce, pies are made, added to salads and even used for canned food, and soup is cooked from the fin – in a word, there are many options for using mako meat.
Population and species status
There are three populations by oceans: Atlantic, Indo-Pacific, and Northeast Pacific – the last two are clearly distinguished by the shape of the teeth. The number of each of the populations has not been established with a sufficient degree of certainty.
Mako were previously fished: their jaws and teeth, as well as their skins, are considered valuable. The meat is used for food. But still, they have never been among the main objects of fishing, and did not suffer from it very much. A more significant problem is that they are often the target of sport fishing.
As a result, this shark is caught quite actively, which leads to a decrease in its population, because it breeds slowly. Experts note that if the current dynamics continues, reducing the population to a critical one is a matter of the near future, and then it will be very difficult to restore it.
Therefore, measures were taken: first, the mako was included in the list of endangered species – in 2007 they were assigned the status of a vulnerable species (VU). The long-finned mako has received the same status, since their population is equally threatened.
This has not had a significant effect – in the legislation of most countries in the years since that moment there have not been strict bans on mako fishing, and the population continued to decline. In 2019, both species were transferred to the status of endangered (EN), which should ensure the cessation of their fishing and the restoration of the population.
Mako Shark Conservation
Previously, mako was practically not protected by law: even after they appeared in the Red Book, only a small number of countries have made efforts to partially limit their catch. Acquired in 2019, the status implies much more serious protection than before, but it will take some time to develop new measures.
Of course, it is not so easy to explain why it is necessary to protect mako – these voracious and dangerous predators, causing significant damage to industrial fisheries. But they are one of the species that have an important function of regulating the ocean ecosystem, and by eating sick and weak fish first of all, they help selection.
Interesting fact: The name mako itself comes from the Maori language, the indigenous people of the islands of New Zealand. It can mean both a species of sharks, and all sharks in general, and even shark teeth. The fact is that Maori, like many other natives of Oceania, have a special attitude towards mako. wrath of the gods. If this is not done, he will manifest himself as a shark: it will jump out of the water and drag a person or overturn a boat – and this is typical, first of all, for mako. However, although the inhabitants of Oceania were afraid of mako, they still hunted them, as evidenced by mako teeth used as decorations.
Mako sharks are remarkable both in their structure and behavior, because it is very different from representatives other species – they behave much more aggressively. But even such strong and terrible creatures people almost brought to extinction, so now we have to introduce measures to protect them, because they are also needed by nature and perform useful functions in it.