17 Rare Facts About The Megamouth Shark

It’s one of the scariest creatures in the deep ocean, and that’s not just because of its frightening name.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Megamouth shark.

1. What is the Megamouth shark?

The Megamouth shark is a type of shark that lives in the depths of the ocean. In that sense, it’s comparable to the rare Goblin Shark, another type of shark that made it to our list of scariest animals in the ocean.

Apart from its freaky appearance, the Megamouth shark is one of the mysteries of the ocean as very little is known about them, and very few individuals have been caught.

2. It has only been discovered in 1976

The Megamouth shark is so rare that it has only been discovered in the year 1976 when it was accidentally caught by a US Navy ship off the coast of Hawaii near Oahu.

Hauling up the shark didn’t exactly go as planned as well. The caudal fin of the shark broke off and divers had to retrieve what the crew of the ship believed to be an unknown type of shark.

They were right as they were the first human beings to lay eyes on the Megamouth shark, a very distinct and unidentified species.

facts about the megamouth shark

3. Very few Megamouth sharks have been caught

Saying that the Megamouth Shark is a rare species is an understatement. Since the first individual was caught back in 1976, only about 100 of them have been caught, with only a few being examined.

Because of this, very little is known about this peculiar animal, including things like its horizontal migration, dispersal, and connectivity patterns.

4. It’s not sure if it has family members

This animal is known by its scientific name, the “Megachasma Pelagios.” One of the most interesting facts about the Megamouth shark is that it’s so rare that it’s considered to be the only member of the family Megachasma.

It is, however, also possible that it’s related to a very similar type of shark called the “Basking Shark,” or “Cetorhinus Maximus,” a member of the family Cetorhinidae.

Basking Shark
The Basking Shark. / Wiki Commons

5. Some extinct sharks have been linked to it

Two extinct types of Megamouth shark species have been discovered and are being linked to the Megachasma Pelagios. These are the:

  • Megachasma alisonae – Discovered in the Søvind Marl Formation in Denmark.
  • Megachasma applegatei – Discovered in the San Joaquin Valley in California.

6. It got its name from the media

So a new species was discovered back in 1976 which didn’t have a name yet. It has one distinct feature, a huge mouth. The media reporting on the matter simply referred to it with its descriptive name.

Since the first newspapers reported about it, everybody has simply been copying the initial descriptive name, and “Megamouth shark” became its official name.

7. What color is the Megamouth shark?

This type of shark is brownish-black on top of its stout body and immensely wide head, and white at the bottom.

megamouth shark facts
The brownish color of the shark / OpenCage / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5

8. How big is the Megamouth shark?

As expected, these are huge animals. Males grow up to 5.49 meters (18 feet) long and mature at around 4 meters (13 feet). Females aren’t much shorter and even mature a bit later at 5 meters (16 feet).

Obviously, this is based on the limited data we have from the 100 individuals that have ever been caught, so much larger ones may be floating around the ocean somewhere.

9. How much does the Megamouth shark weigh?

With an enormous body like that, you can expect this huge animal to weigh quite a bit. The 60th individual that was ever seen was caught near the shores of the Philippines.

This individual weighed a total of 1,215 kilos (2,679 lb), which is most probably not even the biggest out there.

megamouth shark facts
The 60th shark that was ever spotted. / Rosalinda Sariola

10. What does the Megamouth shark eat?

If you think that this type of shark is a ruthless predator similar to the infamous shark in Jaws, then you would be wrong.

This type of shark is one of 3 species of sharks that are referred to as “filter-feeding” sharks. The other 2 types are the basking shark and the whale shark, and none of them have huge teeth.

These 3 filter-feeders mostly feed on plankton and other goodies that are floating around in the deep ocean. They catch their food by swimming around with their huge mouths open.

11. They have a special type of gills

Swimming around with their mouth open is their main “tactic” to catch food. But luckily for them, they have a feature that tremendously benefits them.

The inside of the slit in their gills are lined with “tools” that help them to capture the food. This way, they don’t have to rely on their swimming abilities.

These are referred to as “gill rakers” which are basically the shark’s fingers to pick up food.

12. It’s not the best swimmer in the ocean

This type of shark is probably the laziest of the 3 filter-feeders. That’s most probably also the reason that they aren’t the best swimmers in the ocean if we put it euphemistically.

Megamouth shark species
Shark at Toba Aquarium in Japan. / OpenCage / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en

13. It’s possible that it has a glowing lip

The reason that they aren’t very active is that they don’t have to. One of the most remarkable facts about the Megamouth shark is that they most probably have a glowing tip that attracts food.

This simply means that they can just float around with their mouths open, their glowing lip lures the food in and their gill rakers simply pick it up.

There’s absolutely zero need for the Megamouth Shark to put in any effort whatsoever!

14. Where do Megamouth sharks live?

Another very interesting fact about Megamouth sharks is that they appear to have a vast range. They have been caught in just about any area in the world, including the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.

15. They appear to have a pattern of vertical migration

A study conducted in the year 1990 was actually performed on a living individual. A radio transmitter was attached to its body to follow its movements.

From this study, we can conclude that this type of shark, similar to numerous other marine animals, moves up and down the ocean all day long. This pattern is referred to as “vertical migration.”

In the daytime, the shark would spend its time at depths of between 120 and 16 meters (390 – 520 feet). In the nighttime, however, it would move upwards and spend its time at depths of between 12 and 25 meters (39 and 82 feet).

That’s not really that deep, right? Want to come across one of these?

16. They move around really slow

In the same study, it was also proven that the Megamouth Shark is a pretty lazy animal that doesn’t put in much effort to actually swim.

Their “floating speed” during both the day and night was on average about 1.5–2.1 km/h (0.93–1.30 mph).

17. They have 50 rows of teeth

One of the weirdest facts about the Megamouth Shark is that they not only have about 50 rows of tiny teeth, but only the first 3 rows of these teeth are actually functional!

Why do they have 50 rows then? Nobody knows as we still have a lot to learn from this peculiar and mysterious creature!

megamouth shark teeth
Teeth of the shark / Gordon Makryllos / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en