The Megamouth

Megachasma pelagios

 

The First Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios)

 

Discovered approx. 25 miles off the coast Oahu, Hawaii 

 

On Nov. 15th. 1976

Mission:

A U.S. Navy Ship has orders to search and recover lost “Dummy” Torpedoes.

Result:

The most exciting Shark discovery

As the Chute like drift anchor was being towed, suddenly something huge caused it to drag down. On reeling it up back to the ship, the crew are amazed to find a huge fish, entangled in a deep-water net.

With a mouth measuring 1 metre wide at the tip of a 4.5 metres long brownish coloured flabby body, it was soon realized that nobody had ever seen this species before!!

It took about 7 years before this species was identified and named as Megachasma pelagios, or as it is better known, The Megamouth Shark

Eight years after the original discovery, a second Male specimen was brought up dead, in a fishing net off the coast of California.

HOW MANY HAVE BEEN FOUND SINCE THEN?

Some Statistics first

Locations

Taiwan
Philippines
Japan
Peru
USA
Ecuador
Mexico 
Brazil
Indonesia
China
Australia
South Africa
Senegal
Indian Ocean
Sri Lanka 
Vietnam
Puerto Rico
Liberia 

151
27
23
11
7


3
3
3
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

Sex

Male   91
Female 127
Unknown 26

Condition

Alive      26
Dead     218

Sizes

Largest confirmed           710cm

Largest unconfirmed       800-900cm

Smallest confirmed         176cm

And now the detail

Please note that as much as I try to keep this list up to date, I cannot guarantee that it is exact. Many catches are not being reported or data not being shared.

Click on the image below to see the 244 Megamouth sharks listed.

Read on for some interesting information and stories

Megamouth #23
The Smallest found so far.

This Specimen washed up on the Gapang beach, Sumatra, right in front of Ton Egbers house.

Ton writes: I think there can be no doubt anymore that the shark specimen that washed ashore here today on Gapang Beach, less than 30 meters away from our doorstep, literally, is the rare shark species Megachasma pelagios.

The shark must have died only somewhat earlier, as it wasn’t even smelly at all. Total length is 177 cm, standard length (precaudal) 115 and caudal length 62. Pectorals are 33.

Sharkman Comments:

Megamouth 23 (nicknamed MEMO Jr.) is now having a series of tests done at the LIPI in Jakarta.

Sharkman’s World will be keeping you informed of the developments in this story.

I would like to thank Ton for passing on the Info and for allowing me to use his photos.

 

Ton’s homepage is
LUMBA LUMBA DIVING CENTRE

The Elusive Megamouth Shark (#6)

Text and Photography by Tom Haight

Like so many people, as a teenager I became fascinated by the oceans after reading a book called “The Silent World” written by the late Jacques Cousteau. I knew that I had to explore the oceans and enjoy the peace and serenity it offers to those who try to capture the untold beauty it represents.

If you are like me, I am sure that you dream of doing something that has never been done before. If you are lucky you will never stop the dreaming, because sometimes those dreams do come true.

On October 22, 1990 my dream became reality. I shot underwater photographs and video of a living Megamouth shark.

The summer of 1990 in Southern California was one full of surprises brought on by ocean temperatures that were warmer than usual. Some of the unexpected treats were large schools of yellowtail, Dorado, trigger fish and a few sea turtles. Naturally the biggest surprise of all was the living Megamouth shark.

Megamouths are so rare that they were not known to exist until the first one was discovered off the coast of Hawaii in 1976. Four more specimens were discovered off the coasts of California, Australia and Japan prior to the Dana Point Megamouth, but none had lived long enough to be studied or photographed alive.

I was at my Capistrano Beach home editing slides of baby Garibaldi, a local fish, when a friend called to tell me that a live Megamouth had been accidentally captured in a local fisherman’s drift net. This would be the sixth Megamouth seen by man. When he hauled up the net, the fisherman knew that he had something unusual and he towed it seven miles by the tail, back to Dana Point Harbor. It was there in the harbor that it was finally identified as the rare Megamouth shark. Dr. Don Nelson, a shark behavior expert at California State University in Long Beach, was summoned to come down. He planned the radio tagging, study and release of the shark.

“That thrill of a lifetime” came at 1:30 P.M. when I slipped over the side of my boat and finally saw the shark. The shark was approximately 15 feet long and weighed about 2,000 pounds. The mouth was about 3 feet wide, big enough for a small diver with gear to swim into. This Megamouth, like the previous five, was a male, which was evident by the claspers on the underside of the shark. These gentle giants of the deep feed on krill and plankton so even though they have many vestigial teeth they are not considered a threat to larger animals.

As we approached, the shark seemed to welcome our attention and showed no apparent signs of nervousness, which is more than I can say for the divers in the water, including myself.

I spent nearly four hours in the water with the shark, and I was lucky enough to not only capture the event with still photos and video footage, but also to assist in the studying, tagging and releasing of a creature that is hardly ever seen by man.

During that time we used a length of rope with equally spaced knots to measure the length and circumference of the shark.

Naturally we had to take some tissue samples of the shark in order for the marine biologists to try to determine if it was healthy. Two transmitters were attached to the shark – one to track it vertically in the water column and the second one to track it horizontally.

We were constantly touching this strange visitor who was usually at a depth of about 450 feet during daylight hours. He did not seem to mind our prodding, but rather tolerated us as if we were just a part of his daily routine.

After all the measurements and tissue samples were taken and the transmitters were attached, the rope that restrained the shark by the tail was finally severed. It was exhilarating to see him swim slowly and calmly away from us to the safety of the deep.

The radio transmitters that allowed him to be monitored for the following three days revealed a vertical migration pattern. From dawn to sunset he swam slowly at 450 to 500 feet into the prevailing current, apparently feeding on krill that were at that depth during the daytime. From sunset to sunrise he ascended to 39 to 46 feet below the surface to feed on the krill as they also ascended. The extreme daylight depth could explain why the Megamouth shark is so rarely spotted. Dr. Nelson stated that the tracking of the vertical migration was one of the most significant shark research events in modern history.

Since the Dana Point Megamouth in 1990, eleven more have been seen, but none photographed alive underwater. For me, this once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a rare visitor from inner space was definitely the high point of my 40 years of diving.

So please, keep on dreaming. Your dream could be the next one to come true.

Tom Haight

19th. August 2002

Tom Haight Bio

Tom Haight is a Marine Wildlife Photographer specializing in underwater photography and video. In his 40 years of diving his stock and assignment photography business has take him to some of the top dive destinations and wildlife habitats in the world.

When not traveling, Tom also a teaches PADI specialty courses underwater photo and video courses at Sport Chalet stores in Southern California.

As a retired law enforcement officer, he enjoys volunteering his time to work with and assist the Rangers and Lifeguards on the California State Parks Dive Rescue Teams.

E- mail : tom@oceanimages.com
web site: www.oceanimages.com

Photos used with kind permission of TOM HAIGHT

Comments are closed.