A megamouth shark, one of the rarest sharks in the world, was recently caught off the coast of Japan. The elusive and bizarre deep-water species known as megachasma pelagios was discovered less than 40 years ago and has only been seen a few dozen times since.
The female megamouth shark hauled in from the waters near Shizuoka measured 13-feet long and weighed 1,500 pounds, according to Japan Daily Press. It is the 55th confirmed sighting of a megamouth shark in history.
Japanese media reported the capture on Thursday, but the shark is believed to have been caught some time last month.
The rare megamouth shark was taken from a depth of about 2,600 feet. Researchers performed a public necropsy on the shark at the Marine Science Museum in Shizuoka City, about 179 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.
“It’s a win-lose situation,” George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic. “We’re happy to get another individual to study and add to our knowledge base—but regrettably, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re killing these things.”
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Reports of megamouth shark sightings are scattered across the deep waters of the Pacific, from California to the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, and the Philippines. There have also been a handful of encounters in the eastern and western Atlantic, near Senegal and Brazil, as well as the eastern Indian ocean.
The first megamouth shark was captured by accident off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, in 1976 after it accidently swallowed part of a U.S. Navy ship’s parachute-like sea anchor. When researchers examined the shark back on shore, they realized they had a previously unknown species on their hands.
Megamouths are recognized by their massive jaws and rubbery lips. The average size of the shark’s mouth is about 1.3 meters, or 4.2 feet.
The shark swims with its enormous mouth wide open, filtering water for plankton and jellyfish.
Watch a video, courtesy of YouTube, of the megamouth shark caught in Japan: