Strange new shark intrigues scientists

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The discovery of the megamouth shark

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist

A discovery has been made by a US Navy ship 25 miles off the coast of Kane’ohe, Hawaii. While doing rounds, a soldier noticed something peculiar about the anchor. Walking closer to the bow of the ship, it was realized that there was a massive fish tangled in the anchor.

It was in this way that the discovery of a new species of shark, the megamouth shark, came to be. This rare deep-water shark can reach 18 feet in length, almost the same length as the great white shark. Jaws fans needn’t be scared, however, as this is a gentle planktivorous specimen, one of three, including the enormous whale shark and the basking shark. It’s strange to think of a shark as being planktivorous, but the megamouth shark possesses a massive mouth to aid in capturing large amounts of tiny plankton and jellyfish.

This shark has a soft body, large head, and rubbery lips. Its mouth can reach up to four feet three inches wide. Interestingly, it has luminous photophores surrounding its mouth, which scientists believe might be used to lure plankton towards the shark. Interestingly, the shark is also a poor swimmer.

Little else is known about the rare megamouth shark. Scientists are having a hard time deciding which family it belongs to, with suggestions being made that it shares the family Cetorhinidae with the basking shark. Currently, it is most widely accepted to be the sole species living today from the family Megachasmidae. Much more research is needed to learn about this interesting deep-water fish, and while its family line may still be under debate, no one can deny that this distinct-looking shark is a great discovery for marine biologists and ocean enthusiasts.