As its nickname suggests the megamute, Megachasma pelagios, It is known to have a large mouth over the rounded head and is believed to grow up to 17 feet, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. According to the museum, there have only been about 70 confirmed observations of the elusive shark in the world.
Now, a megamouth caught by fishermen off the coast of Taiwan in 2018 is sitting on a giant block of ice at the Smithsonian’s National Natural History Support Center. The Smithsonian published the news Tuesday through an article in its journal.
“When it comes to sharks, it’s probably one of the most unique, weird-looking species,” said Paul Clerkin, a researcher who graduated from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
“His mouth keeps opening and his upper jaw closes like a convertible hood.”
According to the Oceana Conservation Group, the shark can weigh up to 2,600 pounds and is considered the smallest of the three species of sharks that feed on filters, behind the whale shark and the balma shark. The first known megamute was accidentally discovered by the United States Navy in 1976 in Hawaiian waters.
The crew used two parachute-like marine anchors that reach a depth of 500 feet, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. When the anchors were lifted, they discovered that a 1,500-pound megamú was tangled in the lines. He did not survive.
Since then, confirmed shark planes have been observed around the world in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Discovery of clues about the evolution of the shark
Clerkin, who picked up the new copy of Smithsonian in Taiwan, will work with other researchers to discover clues behind this mysterious animal life. But they will work against the clock as the specimen will begin to decay.
“Understanding the life history of sharks is important, especially because we don’t know their full role in marine ecosystems or how sensitive they are to human pressures,” Clerking said. “They’re a big influence in the world.”
Once the investigation is complete, the shark will be preserved with formaldehyde and then ethyl alcohol for long-term storage, according to the Smithsonian. It will join more than six million more specimens from the fish division museum’s collections.
“Even though we never pick them up again, we will still know that megamouth sharks existed on Earth at the time,” she told Dr. Lynne Parenti, the museum’s curator of freshwater and Indo-Pacific fisheries. “We’re preserving this for everyone for what it shows about basic biodiversity. It could also answer questions that haven’t been asked yet.”