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In the past month, a megamouth shark was found on the coast of Aurora, Philippines, leading scientists to a significant breakthrough.
The 18-foot shark was found to be recently pregnant with seven pups, who looked to have been expelled from her body on the shore, confirming to scientists for the first time that the elusive creatures give birth to their offspring instead of laying eggs.
Not much is currently understood about the enigmatic megamouth shark. It was first identified and documented in 1976, and sightings of the elusive creature are rare, with only approximately 100 documented instances. These sightings typically occur when the shark is unintentionally captured or found stranded.
The National Museum of the Philippines spokesperson told The Independent that the discovery of a pregnant megamouth shark in Aurora Philippines is significant and opens up opportunities for further research, specifically in the area of understanding the species’ biology, especially during its developmental stages.
On November 14, the mother shark was discovered and underwent a necropsy carried out by a specialist from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in the Philippines. The National Museum of the Philippines shared this information on their Facebook page.
One of the puppies underwent a necropsy, while the remaining six puppies were transported to the museum for additional evaluations and procedures, such as genetic testing to determine if they have different fathers.
Once the exams are completed, the marine animals will be stored at the museum and conserved as part of their collection for potential displays.
This discovery is important because it marks the first documented case of a pregnant megamouth shark in the world.
Previously, there was uncertainty among researchers about whether the megamouth shark exhibited ovoviviparity, similar to other shark species, where eggs develop internally and are later laid.
According to AA Yaptinchay, a researcher involved in the examination of the deceased shark, the pups may have been born on land or washed up on the shore due to the stress of being captured or accidentally stranded. This is a common occurrence among other shark species, where similar situations can result in the expulsion of their young or eggs.
According to Yaptinchay, there were no indications of any injuries from fishing tools on the shark, suggesting it was not caught. However, it is not yet known how the shark ended up stranded.
Her pups measured a lengthy 165 to 183.5 centimetres long, but Mr Yaptinchay told the outlet that it was concerning from a conservationist standpoint that the shark produces very few offspring.
He stated that they only have seven offspring, while whale sharks have more than 300 and tuna have millions.
The megamouth shark is one of three types of sharks that are considered “filter feeders.” They use their uniquely large and wide mouths to catch prey while swimming.
The seas around the Philippines are home to the second-largest population of megamouth sharks, with Taiwan having a higher number of documented sightings of this mysterious creature.