A public necropsy was performed this week on a rare megamouth shark caught off Shizuoka, Japan, providing onlookers with a glimpse of the prehistoric-looking creature.
The capture of the 13-foot female megamouth late last month was not widely reported, but it was an extremely rare event. About 1,500 people showed at the Marine Science Museum in Shizuoka City to witness the necropsy, which might help scientists learn more about the mysterious sharks.
The shark, which is named because of its bulbous head and the enormous capacity of its mouth, was hauled from a lightless depth of 2,600 feet. It was not immediately clear, based on sparse news reports, how the shark was captured.
According to WPTV, it was only the 58th megamouth to have been captured or sighted by man.
The Florida Museum of Natural History states that the first known capture of a megamouth shark was in 1976. It was such a mysterious animal that a new shark family, genus, and species had to be created (Megachasmidae, Megachasma, and pelagios, respectively).
The FMNH website lists only 53 confirmed sightings of the megamouth shark. Either the site has not been updated or the museum lists only sightings that were 100 percent confirmed.
Sightings have been made around the world, but most—at least 13—were made off the coast of Japan.
The megamouth, believed to reach a maximum length of 17 feet, resides mostly at great depths, but rises toward the surface at night to feed.
Like the basking shark and whale shark, the megamouth is a filter feeder. Its chief prey is shrimp-like krill.
The Discovery Channel once featured a live-swimming megamouth during “Shark Week,” with stunning imagery of what it called an “alien shark” patrolling surface waters. That footage is posted here:
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