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Extremely rare pregnant megamouth shark washes up on beach and stuns scientists

Kit Roberts

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Extremely rare pregnant megamouth shark washes up on beach and stuns scientists

Featured Image Credit: iNaturalist/Dr. Glenn Moore/CC BY-NC/Facebook/National Museum of the Philippines

If nature was a one hundred metre dash, our knowledge would still be foundering on the starting line with a torn Achilles tendon.

A reminder of just how little we know about the world we live in has come in the form of a gigantic pregnant shark which has washed up in the Philippines.

The shark was from a species which was appropriately called the 'Megamouth Shark', or 'Megachasma pelagios', which you can learn more about here:

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If you hadn't already guessed, this is because of the species' enormous mouth.

But humans need not fear, as like its giant cousins the Whale Shark and the Basking Shark, the Megamouth is a filter feeder.

The specimen washed up dead, and was found on November 14 with a smaller pup next to her and carrying six more pups.

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This alone tells us something about the life cycle of these extraordinary animals.

Sharks are an extremely diverse group of animals. You would expect nothing less given that sharks in some form have been patrolling the oceans for longer than trees have existed.

The Megamouth pups. Credit: National Museum of the Philippines
The Megamouth pups. Credit: National Museum of the Philippines

Some of them lay eggs, the 'mermaid's purses' that you can find on the beach washed up.

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Others carry and give birth to live litters which can range from hundreds of individuals to just one or two in the case of the Sand Tiger Shark.

If you were wondering, that's because Sand Tiger Sharks often kill their sibling before they are born in a macabre prenatal Hunger Games.

And it seems that Megamouths are among those sharks which give birth to live young.

Knowledge about this species is hard to come by, as they are rarely spotted.

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Since their discovery in 1976, only around 120 individuals have been seen or captured.

They are large sharks, with the mother found washed up measuring a whopping 5.6 metres in length.

Meanwhile, the pups each measured between 1.65m and 1.83m.

Very few specimens of the shark have been preserved. Credit: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images
Very few specimens of the shark have been preserved. Credit: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images
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The Megamouth is rarely seen as it usually at a greater depth beneath the surface. It has also been observed to rise closer to the surface at night when food can be more plentiful as creatures rise from the relative safety of the deep.

As to what caused the enormous shark to become stranded, this is not clear.

AA Yaptinchay at Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines told New Scientist that sharks will often expel pups or eggs when distressed.

However, Yaptinchay added that there did not appear to be any sign of injuries caused by fishing equipment or boats.

The mother and pups will now be taken away to be studied, and could reveal more about the lives of these extraordinary animals.

Topics: News, World News, Shark, Animals

Kit Roberts
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