Habitat: throughout the tropical oceans, gaping at everything
In 1976 a research boat was moored off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. When the crew winched up the anchors they discovered a 4.5-metre-long shark tangled up in the cables. It looked like nothing they had ever seen.
It was seven years before the animal was officially described and named. Taking their lead from press coverage of the discovery, the scientists suggested calling it the megamouth shark. It’s an appropriate moniker: the shark’s mouth can be over a metre across, or a fifth of the animal’s length.
Since then the megamouth has proved an elusive beast, not least because it rarely comes shallower than 12 metres, and spends most of its time over 100 metres down. Only 50 have ever been seen, and less than half of those have made their way to scientists; a specimen caught in 2009 wound up being cooked. Nevertheless we are building up a picture of how it lives, including answers to the most important question: what it does with that gaping maw.