What is the Mako Shark, New Jersey's Biggest Shark?

It can literally leap into fishing boats.

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Getty Images / Maddie Meyer

On Saturday, a group of fishermen pulled in an enormous, 926-pound mako shark in the waters outside of New Jersey: the biggest shark ever caught off the state’s coast. The mako — which took more than two hours to pull aboard — weighed 46 pounds more than the previous record-holder, an 880-pounder caught in 1988.

So what’s the deal with the monstrous beast they call the mako shark?

First of all, the mako isn’t just huge: It’s also incredibly fast. Or at least, the “shortfin mako” is; there are two types, the “shortfin” and “longfin,” though they’re often both just referred to as the “mako shark.”

The animal caught in New Jersey was a shortfin mako, which is the fastest shark on record and can swim at a speed of up to 42 miles an hour for short periods. It’s sometimes called “the peregrine falcon of the sharks,” in reference to the world’s fastest bird.

Not only that, but it’s dangerous: It can jump high into the air, and has even been known to leap into boats.

A shortfin mako shark emerges from the water after being caught in the North Atlantic Monster Shark Tournament on July 14, 2017 in Massachusetts.

Getty Images / Maddie Meyer

If that wasn’t terrifying enough, listen to how it hunts. Once the mako finds a target — fish (often bluefish), seabirds, turtles, dolphins, and even smaller sharks — the shark swims underneath it. Suddenly the mako darts up, and if the prey is a fish, bites its caudal peduncle — the place where a tail fin attaches to the narrow part of its body — in order to immobilize it. Then it tears off the prey’s flesh in pieces and enjoys a shredded feast.

The shark goes through this process frequently; it needs to eat 3 percent of its body weight every single day.

Creepy as all of that is, the shortfin mako doesn’t pose much of a threat to humans. The University of Florida charts shark attacks around the world and has noted a mere ten unprovoked mako attacks on humans, only one of which resulted in a fatality.

Male shortfin makos mature around six and a half feet, while females mature around eight and a half feet. They’re found in most parts of the globe: They’re in all of the world’s temperate oceans — those with a mix of cold and warm water, as opposed to tropical or polar oceans — and some tropical waters, too. They only occasionally approach coasts; New Jersey’s was caught 100 miles from land.

If you’re into the mako shark, you’re in luck: You can follow one, as well as other neat sharks, on Twitter.

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