Faculty Research & Creative Activity


Food habits of the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, off the southwest coast of Portugal

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2006


The shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus, is caught in the eastern North Atlantic as a regular bycatch of the surface-drift longline fishery, mainly directed towards swordfish, Xiphias gladius. Stomachs of 112 shortfin mako sharks, ranging in size from 64 cm to 290 cm fork length, showed teleosts to be the principal component of the diet, occurring in 87% of the stomachs and accounting for over 90% of the contents by weight. Crustaceans and cephalopods were also relatively important in this species’ diet, whereas other elasmobranchs were only present in lower percentages. Meal overlap was observed in half of the sampled sharks. No clear trend of prey size selectivity was found, despite smaller individuals seeming incapable of pursuing larger and faster prey. The retention of small prey was also observed in the diet of all sizes of shark. Seasonality in food habits was in accordance with the current availability of food items. The observed vacuity index of 12% is comparable to foraging ecology studies using gillnetting and appears not to be influenced by baited longline gear. Morphological relationships of the digestive system might add important information to the foraging ecology studies and to ecosystem modelling.