When we think of sharks, we picture a deadly killing machine of the deep, apex predators taking prey down in dazzling displays of speed and brutality, but just how fast can these T-rexes of the ocean really travel?
As I’m sure you’re aware, there is a variety of extremely different shark species dwelling below the waves, more than 500 even, and each species has an associated top speed, but one order of these wildly diverse animals is a little faster than the rest.
Which is it?
Read on to learn more about the king speed demon of the sea!
The Shortfin Mako — The Fastest Shark In The Sea
In terms of pure speed in the water, no shark holds a candle to the lightning-quick shortfin mako shark.
Found beneath the surface of all temperate and tropical oceans, the mako can travel at speeds between 45 and 60 miles per hour!
To put that in a bit of context for you, the fastest a human has ever swum through water is 5.05 miles per hour.
The shortfin mako can go 10 times that speed — it’s even faster than the fictional Nautilus submarine of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a craft that could traverse oceans in record time!
But it’s not just their sheer speed that makes them one of the deadliest predators in the ocean, but the strength of their bite too.
The strongest ever recorded shark bite was that of a shortfin mako, measuring 13,000 Newtons.
That equates to roughly 3000 lbs of force, which is about the weight of a flatbed trailer or a female hippo — Imagine something chomping down on you with that kind of force… no thank you!
What Does The Shortfin Mako Shark Look Like?
The shortfin mako looks a little bit like a very big, very, very mean tuna fish.
Not quite as sinuous as many of its slower shark cousins, its sharp snout and straight body allow it to carve up the depths like a knife.
They’re also remarkably large, growing faster than most other species in the family, lamnid.
A full grown adult shortfin mako will typically measure 3.2 meters (10 ft) in length and will usually weigh anywhere between 132 and 298 lbs.
Dorsally, the shortfin mako has a brilliant metallic blue coloring, but on the ventral side of affairs, it has an off-white hue.
Sadly, these wonderful creatures are now classified as endangered by the IUCN.
How Is The Shortfin Mako Shark So Fast?
There are a number of physiological features of the shortfin mako that make it the “cheetah of the sea”.
As mentioned a moment ago, their torpedo-like body shape plays a crucial role, but perhaps just as important is the skin of these wonderful creatures.
Shortfin mako sharks are covered in dermal denticles, tiny toothy scales specialized not just to protect against predators, parasites, and general abrasions, but to significantly minimize drag.
It’s these spectacular dermal features that give the shortfin mako its intense hydrodynamical abilities, but another equally intriguing aspect of this creature that contributes towards its speed is its movement.
Technically speaking, shortfin makos don’t really move like typical sharks.
Rather, they have evolved to mimic many of the muscle movements of their speedy prey.
Is The Shortfin Mako Shark The Fastest Thing In The Ocean?
Hearing how fast the shortfin mako can travel is pretty shocking, but what’s even more jaw dropping than that is the fact they’re not even the fastest thing in the ocean — not by a long shot.
They may be the fastest shark in the deep blue sea, but even these speed demons would have trouble keeping up with the following fish…
The marlin family of fish is insanely quick off the mark when they need to be, and being that they look like tiny rocket ships, it’s really no surprise.
Their sharp, elongated snout pierces through water, allowing their slender bodies to pick up incredible amounts of speed.
The fastest of the marlins is the black marlin, widely considered to be the quickest animal in the ocean, with top speeds of about 80 miles per hour.
They can also leap out of the ocean and gain air speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.
Swordfish are very similar to marlin in their structure, but their pointed snout extends further (hence their name), and they have a less striking coloring of dark gray to off-white.
These spectacular animals have been known to travel at speeds up to 62 miles per hour.
Again, the sailfish has a pointed snout, almost as long as the swordfish’s, and a very long, slender, hydrodynamic body; however, what sets these fish apart from the previous two is the large, sail-like dorsal fin that spans almost their entire body.
With top speeds of around 70 miles per hour, they’re deadly hunters, capable of taking down some of the fastest prey in the deep.
Are There Any Sharks That Get Close To The Shortfin Mako?
While no other shark could ever keep up with the shortfin mako, there are a few out there that deserve an honorable mention…
The salmon shark can travel at speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
Longfin Mako Shark
The shortfin mako’s longfin brethren can surge through the sea at an impressive 35 miles per hour.
Great White Shark
Despite the dinosaurian dimensions of the great white, it’s the fourth-fastest shark species in the ocean, capable of using its immense proportions to power through the depths and devour pretty much anything in its path.
There you have it — the fastest shark in the ocean is the shortfin mako!
Water is 750 times denser than air, which makes the speed of the shortfin mako shark seem even more otherworldly.
The fact that it can travel almost as fast as the snappiest cheetah on land is testament to just how specialized and deadly these creatures are.