Marine Species: Mako Shark

There are two species of mako shark, the shortfin and the longfin. The shortfin is far more common, with a few places in the world to spot them.

There are two species of mako shark, the shortfin and the longfin. The shortfin is far more common, and there are few places in the world to spot them.

Biology of the mako shark

The mako shark is classified as a mackerel shark, part of the same family as species such as the great white, porbeagle and salmon shark. There are two subspecies of mako shark, the shortfin and the longfin. They are almost identical, except that the incredibly rare longfin has slightly elongated pectoral fins. Longfin makos can reach 14 feet (4.5 m), while shortfin makos are slightly smaller. A fully mature female typically reaches 13 feet (4 m).

The shortfin mako is the fastest shark in the world, reaching speeds in bursts of up to 42 miles per hour (68 kph). Just like other species of mackerel sharks, the mako has a complex circulatory system. This effectively makes it warm-blooded, capable of reaching body temperatures 5-7 degrees Celsius higher than the surrounding water. This biological adaptation allows these faster bursts of speed, and the ability to jump 20 feet (6 m) into the air.

The mako is often shy, preferring hunting scenarios over chumming conditions. While species such as the blue shark are scavengers, the mako hunts live prey such as dolphins, tuna, billfish and seabirds.  For this reason, you’ll often see makos on the periphery of dives, lurking in the distance. If there is an especially large individual, it may approach to impose its size.

Where to spot makos

Makos are found in warm to temperate waters around the world. Usually pelagic roaming, they are often extremely close to shore. The mako prefers waters that range from 62 to 73 F (17 to 23 degrees C).

Pico Island, Azores

Situated in the Azorean archipelago, Pico Island is one of the world’s premiere places to spot the world’s largest makos. Between July and October, divers and snorkelers can observe blue and mako sharks congregating around sea-mounts that protrude from the mid-Atlantic ridge. While they’re often elusive, diving in the pristine waters of the Azores’ pristine waters in search of these apex predators is an unparalleled experience.

Cape Town, South Africa

Three hours from Cape Point, the waters of southern Africa turn from dark and cold to warm and blue. Here, where the currents converge, the pelagic species roam. Divers can see schooling yellowfin tuna, pelagic birds and up to 30 blue sharks together. There is a very high success rate when it comes to seeing makos on these trips as well from October to July.

Rhode Island, United States

In the emerald-green waters off the east coast of the United States, divers can do a cage dive with mako and blue sharks in season. The best months to spot makos are August and September. Once a prime area for sports fishing, many companies have realized the value of encountering makos alive.