Megamouth shark

Tom Haight/Seapics.com

 

Weird Ones | The Megamouth shark

One of the great things about sharks is their names – they are wonderfully self-explanatory


Look

Bulbous head with huge mouth and small teeth 

Size 

Maximum length of 5m 

Distribution 

Worldwide, most specimens found off Japan 

Need to know

One of the great things about sharks is their names – they are wonderfully self-explanatory. It’s easy to imagine the person who named the blue shark saying: ‘It was a shark, and it was blue. I know, we’ll call it a blue shark.’ It’s also easy to imagine that the language was equally blue, although for quite different reasons, when men from a US Navy trawler first pulled in a megamouth shark from the waters around Hawaii in 1976: ‘Look at the size of its ******* mouth,’ springs to mind. 

Being such a recent discovery, little is known about the life of a megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios); what we do know is that it has a wide distribution – while most have been found off Japan, megamouths have been found in areas as widespread as California, South Africa and Western Australia. It is also deep, spending most of its time looking for food at depths of between 150m and 1,000m. The mouth in question might look a menacing orifice, but in fact it holds no threat for divers as the shark is a harmless filter- feeder. The huge mouth captures a variety of plankton and small crustaceans in it, filtering them from the water through its gills. 

If the megamouth sharks that have been discovered thus far are representative of gender patterns in the wild, then it’s no fun being a male megamouth if you’re looking for a partner. Female specimens have proved elusive, the first one being found on the coast of Japan in 1994. 

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