Fishermen in the Philippine province of Albay found this rare and bizarre-looking shark washed ashore earlier this week. The dead animal has been confirmed by the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines to be a male megamouth shark, a fish defined by its massive, cavernous mouth.
“The world’s 66th megamouth shark specimen, a male, washed ashore dead in Marigondon, Pioduran, Albay this morning,” the Marine Wildlife Watch wrote on its Facebook page. “The animal was around 4.6 m long. The Philippines has the second most number of reports in the world, now at 15, next to Japan.”
Other reports place this particular shark as the 60th sighting, but nonetheless experts agree that it is very rare to find an intact specimen in such good condition. The Marine Wildlife Watch has recommended that Albay Parks and Wildlife take steps to preserve the fish as a research and display specimen.
“We know so little about it,” Christopher Bird, a deep-sea shark researcher at the University of Southampton, told The Washington Post. “It wasn’t discovered really until 1976. It’s only really seen when it’s accidentally caught in fishermen’s nets or when it is stranded on beaches.”
The species was first discovered by a US Navy ship near Kaneohe, Hawaii. Megamouth sharks are the smallest of three species of plankton-eating sharks. Dwarfed by the more familiar whale shark, megamouths can still grow up to 18 feet in length and weigh more than 3,000 pounds. Their large mouths are lined with as many as 50 rows of teeth, which the sharks keep open while swimming to trap plankton and other small treats. Experts speculate that because of this method of feeding, megamouths are likely slow swimmers and not very aggressive.
Another megamouth shark was captured last year in Japan at a depth of about 2,600 feet. That shark was given to the Marine Science Museum in Shizuoka, Japan, where it was dissected for study.
You can see images of the Philippine megamouth below: