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October 26, 2001

Comparing Makos

Do you know the difference between a shortfin and a longfin mako?

Q: Coming from New Zealand, we are very familiar with the shortfin mako shark and are therefore intrigued by the longfin mako, which does not appear in our waters. Vague descriptions are all we have come across. What can you tell us of the differences between the shortfin and longfin mako? What is the longfin's maximum size and range? - Julian and Mike Brook, Auckland, New Zealand

A: Anglers most often encounter the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) because it is more likely to move inshore on occasion. The shortfin mako is found worldwide in tropical and temperate seas and is primarily oceanic but occasionally comes in to reefs. The longfin mako (Isurus paucus) is found worldwide in the tropics but generally stays below the thermocline, although it tends to come nearer the surface at night. It is considered rare in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, except off Cuba. The longfin is taken almost exclusively on longlines, although at least one has been caught on rod and reel off south Florida. It has a blunter snout and larger eyes than the shortfin and much longer pectoral fins. In the shortfin, the first dorsal fin begins at a point just behind the tip of the pectoral fin. The pectoral fin of the longfin mako is about the same length as the distance from the base of the pectoral fin to the tip of the snout. Makos have bright blue to slate-blue backs, light blue sides and white bellies. In the shortfin, the lower jaw is also white, while the lower jaw of the longfin is blue. The shortfin grows to 12 feet in length, but the longfin has been recorded only to 9 feet long.