Rare Megamouth Shark Caught Off Japanese Coast

A group of Japanese fishermen recently pulled an exceedingly rare catch from the depths, hauling in a megamouth shark, a species that has been witnessed less than a hundred times in the wild since it was first discovered.

The megamouth shark was caught roughly five kilometers from Owase Port in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, according to the Independent. The unfortunate shark was captured with a net and eventually brought to land, weighing in at nearly a ton. It was eventually bought by a local fishmonger, and the shark’s ultimate disposition remains unknown.

The species is commonly found in the waters around Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan, though it is very rarely sighted by humans. As the Telegraph notes, the megamouth shark has been recorded less than 60 times since it was first discovered. The shark was only confirmed by science in 1976, making it a relatively recent addition to the observed animal kingdom.

Part of the reason for the megamouth shark’s elusive nature is its preferred habitat. Much like cow sharks, the species lives in the cold depths of the ocean, usually swimming between 400 and 500 meters below the waves. At night, however, the sharks move closer to the surface, rising to depths of just 12 meters.

The discovery of the megamouth shark was in and of itself accidental. The species was first noted off the coast of Hawaii, when one of the animals found itself caught in the anchor of a U.S. Navy ship. Its name was first coined by media sources due to the shark’s impressively sized maw, which it utilizes to catch plankton and other food sources. Despite the animals’ imposing size, megamouth sharks are thought to primarily subsist on a diet that consists of krill, shrimp, and plankton.

While the species is exceedingly rare, the recent catch isn’t the first time that a megamouth shark has made headlines. In 2014, another member of the species was also caught off the coast of Japan, as the Inquisitr reported at the time. This discovery was quickly followed by another, as a second megamouth shark was recorded in the Philippines in January of 2015.

The specimen that was found in 2015 was discovered under unusual circumstances, having washed ashore instead of being caught. The shark was found by a group of fishermen near Marigondon, a port in Pio Duran, Albay. When they encountered it, the men noted that the shark was wounded, missing its tail fin. Though it is unclear exactly how the megamouth was injured, officials posited that the shark could have found itself inadvertently entangled in a fisherman’s nets. The animal was beyond help by the time it was discovered, having already succumbed to its injuries. Measuring four-and-a-half meters, the male shark was the 15th to be discovered in the Philippines.

Enigmatic in nature, megamouth sharks possess no less than 50 rows of teeth on each jaw, despite the fact that they primarily feed through filtering. When the sharks were first discovered, scientists had to create a new family and genus of shark in order to properly classify them. In keeping with their unusual appearance, megamouth sharks are thought to be poor swimmers, and are more likely to be preyed upon by cetaceans than to pose significant danger to other large animals.

[Photo by FLMNH Ichtyology via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 4.0]