When scientists first discovered the megamouth shark in 1976 off the coast of Hawaii, it hit them as so bizarre that, to name it, they created a completely new genus and family.
Today, little is still known about the shark save for the fact that it has a large mouth, While swimming off the coast of Indonesia’s Komodo Island, one diver got a lucky sighting of one of these rare sharks.
The diver was exploring the northernmost string of the islands known as Gili Lawa Laut, a popular diving spot for tourists when the shark happened to swim by. The video shows a clear image of the shark gently gliding through the water. It’s characteristic head and mouth gets within close vicinity of the diver before it turns and swims away.
The Florida Museum of Natural History keeps an official list of megamouth shark sightings dating back to its discovery in 1976. In the past 41 years, just over 60 sightings have been confirmed. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps active records of world species populations, notes that 102 specimens have been observed.
While the species is mysterious, megamouth sharks offer little threat to people. The sharks are filter feeders and have what the Florida museum characterizes as, “a soft, flabby body and poor swimming skills.” The big fish are believed to grow roughly 17 feet long. In addition to their wide-stretched mouths, the sharks can also be recognized by their snout-shaped heads.
The sharks have been found in shallow waters near the water’s surface and ocean depths of up to a mile, suggesting the animals are diurnal, and regularly alternate between deep and shallow.
They’ve been spotted primarily near Japan and Taiwan, but sightings have occurred in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Because of its wide range of distribution, the IUCN lists the megamouth shark as an animal of “least concern.”