Fishermen casting their nets at Mie Prefecture, a few miles away from the Owase Port in Japan made a large and unusual catch. A 16-foot, 1 ton Megamouth Shark with its wide head and rubbery lips made an unusual appearance.
Megamouth sharks (Megachasma pelagios) are an elusive species recently discovered in 1976 when captured entangled in the sea anchor of a U.S. Navy ship off the coast of Hawaii. Since then, there have only been sixty confirmed sightings of the elusive shark.
They were given the name Megamouth because of the size of its orifice. Mouths can open to over 4-feet wide as they open their jaws while gliding through the water filtering and eating plankton, jellyfish, shrimp, krill and other sea creatures. They feed at night, swimming at a depth of 39-82 feet of water. During the day, they swim at a depth of 394-525 feet.
Males mature to 13 feet length, females 16 feet and they can weigh up to 2,679 pounds. Though large, they are the smallest of three plankton-eating sharks. Whale sharks and basking sharks are much larger. Their flabby bodies are brownish-black with white on their underside and are very slow swimmers. They are usually found near Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Biologist Jose Castro with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in 2012,
We have yet to discover everything about these mystifying creatures: their behavior, reproduction, physiology, and some anatomical features. The most we have learned about these creatures is through necropsies, or looking at them after they’ve died.
Scientists in Japan conducted a public autopsy of a Megamouth in 2014 at the Marine Science Museum in Shizuoko City. A curious crowd of 1,500 gathered to watch.
The Megamouth shark shows how little we know about the oceans. A lot remains to be discovered, even about these large animals.
As for the Megamouth recently captured? It was sold to a local fish merchant.
That’s a lot of sushi!