An incredibly rare megamouth shark has been caught in Japan, a deep water species with a distinctly disproportionately scaled body, of which fewer than 100 sightings have been recorded. The shark – so named because of its huge head, far larger than you’d expect in size given the rest of the body – measured around 13 feet in length, and was the subject of a public autopsy by the Marine Science Museum of Shiuoka, Japan.
What makes the megamouth shark particularly interesting is its rarity. The species itself was only identified for the first time in 1976, and since then there have only been a handful of recorded sightings.
Although its mouth might look intimidating, the megamouth shark is actually a filter feeder. Rather than catching large prey, it swims with its jaws open and gathers up plankton and other small sea creature.
Its lips – distinctively rubbery – are surrounded by photophores which glow in the deep waters the shark swims in. Scientists believe that may be a way of attracting prey, similar to how anglerfish use a glowing lure to intrigue smaller animals.
More than a thousand people gathered to see the dissection, with the remains of the shark on show at the Japanese museum.