Fast Facts about the Mako Sharks
Name:Isurus oxyrynchus (Shortfin Mako) and Isurus paucus (Longfin Mako)
The genus name Isurus comes from the greek words meaning "Equal Tail"
The species name oxyrynchus comes from the greek words meaning "Sharp Nose"
The species name paucus comes from the latin word meaning "Few"
Order: Lamniformes - Family: Lamnidae - Genus: Isurus - Species: oxyrinchus (shortfin mako), paucus (longfin mako)
Age: Eocene to Recent
The Isurus genus first appears in the Late Cretaceous. By the Miocene it branches into the modern Mako sharks and the White Sharks.
Distribution: Nearly Global
The Shortfin Mako shark has a global distribution in offshore temperate and tropical waters.
The Longfin Mako shark is less common and less is known about them. However, they have a nearly global distribution in offshore tropical and semitropical waters.
2.5 - 4.2 m (8 - 13 feet) Shortfin Makos are slightly smaller than Longfin makos. The largest Longfin mako accurately measured had a length of 13.7 feet.
The diet of a Mako shark is almost entirely fish, smaller sharks, and sometimes squid.
They have very long and thin teeth, ideal for grasping onto fish.
Mako sharks have a dark blue dorsal surface, and a white underbelly. They are very slim and hydrodynamic.
The Longfin mako looks very similar to the Shortfin mako but has larger fins and eyes.
The IUCN lists the Mako sharks as Vunerable.
Mako sharks are the fastest of all sharks. A Shortfin mako has been reliably clocked at 31 mph (50 Km/hr), and is thought to have achieved even faster bursts of speed! For comparison, an Olympic swimmer can swim at speeds around 5 mph.
Migratory? Based on studies of tagged individuals, Shortfin makos may migrate to warmer waters in the winter.
Mako Shark Facts - The Isurus Genus - The Details
Left Image:"Shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrinchus, off Catalina Island, California, eastern Pacific Ocean." Credit: jidanchaomian via CC BY-SA 2.0.
Right Image:Shortfin Mako Shark. By Mark Conlin, SWFSC Large Pelagics Program. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Isurus is the true Mako genus. Sometime in the Miocene, Isurus desori branched into two species of mako,
I. retroflexus aka I. paucus, and I. oxyrhinchus. These two mako species survive today. The Short-fin Mako
(I. oxyrinchus) is more common than the Long-fin Mako (I. paucus). Both Makos are very similar,
but the Long-fin Mako has a slimmer body and larger fins.
Makos are pelagic, they prefer the open ocean, and live in tropical and temperate waters worldwide. They are also very hydrodynamic, and are among the fastest fish. Depending on the source, they can attain speeds anywhere from 20 mph to 30 mph. According to the FMNH, the average adult size is around 10 feet (3.2 m). Because of their size and speed, Makos are a popular sport fish.
The genus Isurus (Mako sharks) first appear in the Late Cretaceous. This genus continues into the Miocene, where it branches a new genus called Cosmopolitodus. The Cosmopolitodus genus (White Sharks) eventually leads into the Great White Shark, Carcharodon Carcharias. Also in the Miocene, the Isurus genus branches into the modern mako sharks, Isurus paucus and Isurus oxyrhincus.
The following book: Great White Shark: Myth and Reality is a great book about Great White sharks. This 144 page book is geared for a general readers and students and is full of great pictures. The author is a professional photographer who has been researching Great Whites for over 20 years.
by Mark Renz, 2009
Desert Sharks, by Mark Renz, takes you to the deserts of Peru in search of prehistoric sharks. This book is full of stunning images and interviews from paleontogists. It traces the the evolution of the Great White Shark, which evolved around 4-5 million years ago in what is now the deserts of Peru.
This 193 page book also contains a ton of beautiful photographs, just look at the one on the cover!
Skullduggery Eyewitness Shark Casting Kit This is a great educational and creative introduction into the world of sharks. Kids create and paint casts of a Great White, Thresher, Hammerhead shark, and the corresponding shark teeth. They learn basic shark information as well as differences between types of sharks!
Fossil Mako Shark Tooth Morphology
The following fossil shark tooth I.D. diagrams show upper and lower teeth of the following species: I. oxyrinchus
Click on a thumbnail to go to the identification, or simply scroll down.
Please note: If you are looking for the classic "fossil mako teeth" found at many fossil sites, they are actually White Shark teeth. Please go to the White Shark Gallery to see those fossils.
Isurus oxyrinchus, an extant Mako shark is thought by some to be the same as I. desori, an extinct mako shark.
Therefore, I oxyrinchus may be synonymous with I desori.
These teeth are also very similar to I. paucus, the other extant Mako shark. It is currently being debated wether or not some Isurus tooth forms are of I paucus. If I paucus is to be differentiated from I oxyrinchus in the fossil specimens, the differences are very slight, and will not be discussed here.
I oxyrinchus upper teeth are have long, slender crowns. Their roots are long in the anterior section of the mouth and become more squarish as the teeth transition to laterals. Also the crowns of upper laterals tend to be broader than the upper anteriors.
Lower teeth also have long, slender crowns that have a lingual bend. The crowns however remain more peg-like as the teeth transition to laterals.
Below are two diagrams, one of an upper anterior tooth, and one of a lower anterior tooth.
Isurus oxyrinchus upper A2 shark tooth from the Pungo formation near Aurora, NC
Isurus oxyrinchus lower A3 shark tooth from the Calvert Cliffs of MD
Examples of Mako Shark Fossils
Shortfin Mako Shark
Isurus oxyrinchus teeth are very similar to the living I. desori teeth, the shortfin mako shark. Some believe this may even be the same species.
This is a shortfin Mako shark tooth found at the PCS mine in Aurora. It's still in a little bit of matrix.
Formation:Pungo River or Yorktown? Age:Miocene or Pliocene ~ 18-15 or 2.5 m.y. Location:PCS Mine, Aurora, NC Size:2" (51mm)
These are two other shortfin Mako sharks tooth found at the PCS mine in Aurora.
Formation:Pungo River? Age:Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y Location:PCS Mine, Aurora, NC Size:Largest tooth is 2" (51mm)
This beauty (a lower anterior) is as big as my lee creek mako finds!
Left is the lingual view, right is the profile view.
Formation:Calvert, Plum Point member Age:Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y Location:Clavert Cliffs of Maryland Size:Largest tooth is 2" (51mm)
This is an upper anterior tooth
Formation:Pungo River? Age:Early - Middle Miocene ~ 18-15 m.y Location:PCS Mine, Aurora, NC Size:1 9/16" (39mm)
Ehret, D. J., H. Hubbell, and B. J. MacFadden. (2009) Exceptional preservation of the white shark Carcharodon (Lamniformes, Lamnidae) from the early Pliocene of Peru. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 29:1-13. BioOne
Ehret, D. J., MacFadden, B. J., Jones, D. S., Devries, T. J., Foster, D. A. and Salas-Gismondi, R. (2012). Origin of the white shark Carcharodon (Lamniformes: Lamnidae) based on recalibration of the Upper Neogene Pisco Formation of Peru. Palaeontology, 55: 1139-1153. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4983.2012.01201.x
Gottfried, Michael D., Compagno, Leonard J. V., and Bowman, S. Curtis. (1996). Chapter 7. Size and skeletal anatomy of the Giant Megatooth shark Carcharodon megalodon. pp. 55-66. IN: Klimley, A. Peter, and Ainley, David G. (editors). In: Great White Sharks the Biology of Carcharodon carcharias Academic Press. San Diego, CA. 517 pp.
Nyberg, K.G. & Ciampaglio, C.N. & Wray, G.A.. (2006) Tracing the ancestry of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, using morphometric analyses of fossil teeth. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 26 (4): 806-814 DOI: 10.1671/0272-4634(2006)26[806:TTAOTG]2.0.CO;2
Purdy, R., Schneider, V., Appelgate, S., McLellan, J., Meyer, R. & Slaughter, R. (2001). The Neogene Sharks, Rays, and Bony Fishes from Lee Creek Mine, Aurora, North Carolina. In: Geology and Paleontology of the Lee Creek Mine, North Carolina, III. C. E. Ray & D. J. Bohaska eds. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology, No 90. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. pp. 71-202.