Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Megamouth Shark

Image source
The Megamouth Shark is a big, ugly and extremely rare deep sea shark. Say goodbye to the deadly, streamlined, elegance of so many surface dwelling kin, welcome instead a chunky, flabby, massively mouthed monstrosity that appears to have been carved from flabby stone by a flabby sculptor who just stopped before putting any of the detail in. I couldn't blame him too much though, this thing reaches 5.5 metres (18 ft) in length with reported weights up to 1,215 kilograms (2,680 lb). Maybe he should have started on something smaller?

Image by 7-how-7 via Flickr
Megamouths are about as slow and clumsy a swimmer as they look, but swim they must. They spend their days at depths of as much as 1,000 metres (3,280 ft) before rising by night to 150 metres (500 ft) or less as they follow plankton. This plankton is captured by gill rakers, which are finger like projections on the gills, and is why they have such a gigantic, indeed mega, mouths. Yet this shark doesn't rely purely on a great, big cavernous gob, and certainly not on it's numerous but tiny teeth. Far better are the host of photophores that light up just above the mouth. Jellyfish and tiny crustaceans are attracted to these stars in the night sky, but then they fall into the black hole beneath.


The first megamouth shark was discovered in 1976. By now, there are about 50 specimens and they seem to live in tropical and subtropical oceans across the world. Not a great deal is known about them, but one of the stand-out questions is this: why did it take so long for us to discover such a huge, sluggish beast as this?


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I've decided to start posting three days a week. Next post will be on Friday to go along with the Wednesdays and Sundays, I hope you'll join me then. CLICK CLICK CLICK!!!

11 comments:

N said...

I love this blog! I'm thrilled you're going to be posting three times a week now. Keep up the good work. :)

Comment1 said...

Thank you very much for the kind words! I guess I'll do exactly as you ask. Or try to, anyway

bill said...

This is one of the most fascinating creatures yet! The ocean is full of mysteries. This is one of the most captivating. Keep it up. This is so good!

Wild_Bill:www.wildramblings.com

Comment1 said...

Thanks Bill! I have to agree, there's something special about this slow giant and its great, big face.

Crunchy said...

Great stuff. You have that sort of fascinated enthusiasm that makes science so very interesting.

Any chance you could do the pistol shrimp or the mantis shrimp? Both of them have fascinating weaponized claws (and the mantis shrimp also has some of the coolest and best eyes in the world).

Comment1 said...

Thanks, Crunchy!

And yes, I have every intention of doing both of those, have done for a while. I guess I'll put it higher up on the agenda. Thanks for the suggestion!

Crunchy said...

Woo! :D

Fuzzball Dave said...

YEA!! 3 times a week now <3

Comment1 said...

:) Thanks for the support!

Samantha M. said...

The shark looks very scarred and aged, moreso than I would have expected. I wonder if it has some sort of natural (large) predator it has to fight off, or if megamouths are just incredibly old sharks that have picked up battle scars along the way. It always amazes me when we figure out how old animals are, like the (now deceased) Galapagos tortoise or the whale that was found recently with a late 1800s harpoon point in it.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

I hadn't thought of that! You're right, it's nice to see them baring their scars with fleshy, doe-eyed pride!

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