After the Internet was thrilled with the images of a goblin shark discovered by some lucky Florida fisherman, another unique sea creature was found last month. An extremely rare megamouth shark was pulled from a fishing trap in the waters off the coast of Japan.
The female shark, which weighs nearly 1,500 pounds and measures at least 13 feet, was captured about a half-mile down in the waters near Shizuoka, located off the southern coast of central Japan, in what is believed to be only the 58th known sighting of the animal on record.
The name ‚Äėmegamouth‚Äô is derived from the disproportionate size of its huge head and the enormous capacity of its mouth, which is kept open as it swims in order to filter water for plankton and jelly fish.
The first megamouth was discovered in Hawaii in 1976, prompting scientists to create an entirely new family and genus of sharks. The megamouths are docile filter-feeders with wide, blubbery mouths.
Others megamouths ‚ÄĒ considered one of the rarest fish in the world ‚ÄĒ have been encountered in California, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, Senegal, South Africa, Mexico and Australia. It’s known to inhabit the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
‚ÄúMegamouth sharks have soft bodies with large oily livers, flabby muscles and skeletons that are poorly calcified,‚ÄĚ according to the¬†Western Australian Museum. These features likely allow the sharks to swim slowly without sinking. The Western Autralian Museum¬†even houses a specimen of its own, which was found washed up on the coast of Western Australia back in August 1988.
The megamouth can grow ¬†up to 17 feet long, and generally spends most of its times in the deep depths of the ocean, though the creatures sometimes come up near the surface to eat. It‚Äôs thought that the megamouth can survive several kilometers below the surface of the ocean.
Early reports don‚Äôt indicate whether the animal was still alive when it was captured 2,600 feet below the ocean‚Äôs surface. On Tuesday, the Marine Science Museum in Shizuoka City dissected it before 1,500 spectators. The shark is now on display at the museum.¬†Only 13 sightings of the sharks off the coast of Japan have been recorded.
In 2009, fishermen in the Philippines accidentally caught and later ate a megamouth shark. The 1,100-pound, 13-foot megamouth died while struggling in the fishermen’s net off Burias island in the central Philippines. It was taken to nearby Donsol in Sorsogon province, where it was butchered and eaten, says the Fox News.
In a recent tribute to the Megashark, the Discovery Channel even gave prominence to the animal during one of its acclaimed Shark Week features, calling it an ‘alien shark.’