Creature Feature: Shortfin Mako

Shortfin-mako Andy Murch Arkive

Have you ever wondered which is the fastest shark in the world? Dive into today’s Creature Feature and learn about the speedy Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus). Scientists theorize that this sharks maximum speed is around 45 mph.  I say theorize since this there are many factors that might hinder the accurate measurement of swimming speed, including ocean currents that create drag and the fact that sharks don’t necessarily swim in a straight line. Even so, that’s pretty fast! Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of the metallic blue Shortfin Make to understand what makes it so hydrodynamic (that means “fast in water”).

Shortfin-mako-David Hall Arkive

Makos are slender and torpedo-shaped with a conical snout. The caudal keel, which is a lateral ridge that is slightly forward of the tail fin, is extremely noticeable. This prominent caudal keel provides stability and support for the tail fin. In addition to the caudal keel, the scales of the Mako are also quite fascinating. Researcher Amy Lang, an aerospace engineer at the University of Alabama, discussed the flexibility and bristling movements of Makos’ dermal denticles at the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Long Beach, California.

Lang explained that, while Shortfin Makos do not move their dermal denticles themselves, the water flowing around their moveable denticles causes a lift in the body. This decreases drag so Makos can have  a quicker and more narrow turn radius. Lang and a team of biologists found that these movable bristle scales were located behind the gills and along the side of the body. The location of these scales is well adapted to the conditions that these sharks typically inhabit, where the currents have a high impact on the sharks’ bodies

Now that’s a fast, fun fact about a fast, fun shark!

References:
Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography: Andy Murch and David Hall
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/shortfinmako/shortfinmako.html
http://www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/shark/species_pages/pac_shortfin_mako_shark.htm
http://www.elasmo-research.org/education/topics/p_shark_speed.htm
http://www.aps.org/units/dfd/

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