A rare and mysterious species, the Megamouth Shark Megachasma pelagios was first sighted when one had gotten entangled in a sea anchor (Oceana, 2023), and hauled up by fishermen on-board a navy ship in 1976 (Black, 2014). The Megamouth Shark is distributed worldwide in tropical to temperate latitudes, can be found in costal to open ocean (epipelagic to bathypelagic), and is a filter feeder, like that of the Whale, and Basking Shark (Oceana, 2023).
Upon its first discovery, this genus of shark generated its own taxonomy, Order Lamniformes (mackerel sharks), and belongs to the family Megachasmidae (megamouth sharks) (Oceana, 2023). Currently this shark is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List, with the most recent assessment of species health being in 2018 (IUCN Red List, 2023). The Megamouth Shark can be found resident in countries such as Australia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, South Africa, and China, with the current population number of sharks being unknown due to their rare sightings, and lack of research (IUCN Red List, 2023).
A large species of shark, reaching weights of up to 2700 pounds (1215kg), and approximately 16 feet in length (5m), this species has only been observed within the wild a few times, with less than 60 individual sharks having been known by scientists to of ever been captured or observed (Oceana, 2023). The smallest of the three species of filter-feeding sharks, this shark derived its name from its remarkably large, circular mouth (Oceana, 2023). From what little research has been carried out on the species, from the rare few sightings these sharks have been observed residing near to the surface, in depths of up to 15,000 feet (4600m) (Oceana, 2023).
It is believed that Megamouth sharks only come near to the surface at night, spending the majority of their lives in the dark (Oceana, 2023). They are filter feeders that swim through the ocean with their mouths open capturing food resources, such as plankton (Oceana, 2023). The inside of their mouths contain light producing organs, believed to be used for attracting pelagic crustaceans and other prey (Oceana, 2023).
With commercial fisheries pushing to deeper depths to discover new species to market as food, more and more large deep sea creatures are being discovered (Oceana, 2023). Like other species of shark, megamouths mate via internal fertilization, giving birth to a small number of live young (Oceana, 2023). The adult shark does not connect to their live young through a placenta, and instead the mother provides an unfertilized egg during gestation (Oceana, 2023). Once born, the megamouth shark immediately becomes a filter feeder (Oceana, 2023). There is a huge lack in species behavioral ecology, and richness, and so electronic tagging studies and further research is needed in order to better understand, and to conserve this species (Watanabe & Papastamatiou, 2019).
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Megachasma pelagios
MAXIMUM SIZE: Up to 5.5 meters (18 feet) in length
DIET: Filter feeds for plankton, but also consumes deep water fish
DISTRIBUTION: Widespread distribution in tropical and temperate waters worldwide
HABITAT: Ocean-going. Surface to deep waters – 1,000m.
Due to its elusive nature and rare sightings, little is known about its population size or trends. It is occasionally caught as bycatch in fishing gear, but there are no known directed fisheries for this species.
Banner image – Wikimedia Commons | GordonMakryllos
- Black, R. (2014) A forgotten fossil megamouth gets a name. National Geographic. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/a-forgotten-fossil-megamouth-gets-a-name. Accessed: 21st March 2023.
- IUCN Red List. (2023) Megamouth Shark. IUCN Red List. Available: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/39338/124402302#taxonomy. Accessed: 21st March 2023.
- (2023) Megamouth Shark. Oceana. Available at: https://oceana.org/marine-life/megamouth-shark/. Accessed: 21st February 2023.
- Watanabe, YY, Papastamatiou, YP. (2019) Distribution, body size and biology of the megamouth shark Megachasma pelagios. J Fish Biol. 95: 992– 998. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.14007
This month’s Creature Feature has a guest writer – Jodie Moore
Reef-World Launches New Partnerships to Accelerate Sustainability in the Dive Industry
The Reef-World Foundation, DiveAssure, and ZuBlu are launching a new collaboration to champion marine conservation while promoting sustainable diving practices. The symbiotic partnerships aim to increase awareness and implementation of environmental standards in the marine tourism industry through the Green Fins initiative, spearheaded by Reef-World in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
Businesses have a unique opportunity to create a long-lasting impact through partnerships with conservation organisations. These partnerships show how tourism can go hand in hand with sustainability when businesses join forces with conservation organisations. By working together, these organisations and companies demonstrate their dedication towards sustainability and open doors to endless opportunities for growth and success in the tourism industry that benefit the people and the planet.
As the number of divers continues to grow and make a comeback post-pandemic, studies have shown that there’s a strong demand for sustainability education from dive tourists. This resulted in the partnership between Reef-World, DiveAssure and ZuBlu to promote sustainable diving practices through one of Green Fins tools, the Green Fins Diver e-Course. The course is designed for recreational divers to build on their existing scuba diving knowledge and provide them with the skills and confidence to conduct environmentally friendly diving trips. This, in return, empowers them to use their consumer power to demand more sustainable practices.
Chloe Harvey, Executive Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking this step with these two wonderful companies. This is a truly symbiotic partnership, one that furthers the business priorities of DiveAssure and ZuBlu, as well as delivering on our conservation objectives. Reef-World has a long history of working with sustainability leaders in the diving industry, and with their support, we look forward to diving into a future where sustainability is at the heart of every dive adventure.”
What the partnerships entail for divers who have completed the Green Fins Diver e-Course:
- Get 20% off worldwide diving accident and dive-travel insurance from DiveAssure.
- Get 5% off scuba diving holidays booked with ZuBlu, a dive travel agency which has over 800 carefully chosen resort and liveaboard partners across 100 dive destinations worldwide.
- Reef-World to provide 10% off on Green Fins Diver e-Course for all DiveAssure and ZuBlu customers and members.
Besides offering a discount on their diving accident and travel plans, DiveAssure proudly supports top Green Fins Members across the globe with grants to fulfil their sustainability and conservation goals. Founded in 1999, DiveAssure has a goal of not only providing scuba divers with everything they might need in terms of safety and medical assistance, they are also committed to sustainability and the protection of our ocean. They champion responsible diving, endorse marine conservation, and continuously strive to minimise environmental footprints. Every quarter, DiveAssure evaluates initiatives proposed by Green Fins members — be it beach or reef cleanups, coral propagation, or setting up marine life nurseries. Dive centres keen to collaborate on such impactful endeavours are encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Tal Tamir, Business Development & Community Chief at DiveAssure, said: “We are thrilled about our new partnership with The Reef-World Foundation. We believe that sustainable diving is a key factor in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our ocean. And that through education, we can raise awareness and drive positive change. The Green Fins courses empower divers and operators with knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable diving practices and the importance of protecting the ocean and its ecosystems — knowledge we encourage all our members to have. Green Fins Members are welcome to apply for funding for their blue-green initiatives, which are considered quarterly. Let’s do good together!”
With the “Explore the blue. Dive green.” tagline, ZuBlu celebrates sustainable businesses and encourages divers to be more environmentally conscious while on their adventures to contribute to a healthier ocean. Reef-World has proudly collaborated with ZuBlu since 2018, and this new partnership model represents a transformation in the impact they can have together. Their mission centres around improving the way travellers engage with the ocean. They believe every dive starts at home, and every decision made in planning a holiday can make a difference to the marine environment. With access to information on the sustainable practices implemented by their featured resort and liveaboard partners, they can ensure their customers find sustainable operators to book their ocean adventures with.
Adam Broadbent, co-founder and CEO at ZuBlu, said: “We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation to further encourage more conscious divers. At ZuBlu, we want to empower our guests to be a force for good on their scuba diving adventures. And we are delighted to be rewarding Green Fins Divers with a 5% discount to acknowledge their commitment to the ocean.”
Join the movement to protect our ocean by taking the Green Fins Diver e-Course and receiving all the rewards that come from the partnerships.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. The charity promotes the wise use of natural resources – particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems – for the benefit of local communities, visitors and future generations. It is dedicated to supporting, inspiring and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources.
Reef-World leads the global implementation of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative, which focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. As such, the charity provides low-cost and practical solutions to local and industry-wide environmental challenges associated with the marine tourism industry. It provides education and capacity-building assistance to empower environmental champions (within the diving industry, local communities, authorities and governments) to implement proven coastal resource management approaches.
About Green Fins
Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach – spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.
Green Fins encourages and empowers members of the diving industry to act to reduce the pressures on coral reefs by offering dive and snorkel companies practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices – such as anchoring, fish feeding and chemical pollution – as well as providing strategic training, support and resources. By reducing the local direct and indirect pressures tourism puts on coral reefs, it helps make corals healthier and more resilient to other stresses such as the effects of climate change. Look for the Green Fins logo when booking your next dive trip.
DiveAssure goes beyond being just another member association. DiveAssure is your steadfast companion and passport to extraordinary underwater adventures. Their membership provides medical, rescue and evacuation services in case divers and travellers have an accident, become injured, sick or if their safety is threatened.
Whatever the emergency, wherever you are, DiveAssure has your back. So you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep, knowing their comprehensive benefits, global network, and unwavering commitment to your safety will ensure that every dive is an unforgettable and secure experience. Learn more at www.diveassure.com.
ZuBlu is the world’s leading dive travel agency for scuba diving and ocean experiences, with more than 800 partners in over 100 dive destinations around the world. Secure online booking, expert travel advisors and flexible booking terms mean you can discover, compare and book scuba diving holidays with ease. Discover and book your next diving adventure at www.zubludiving.com now.
Creature Feature: Broadnose Sevengill Shark
In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.
Written by guest contributor – Yolanda Evans.
A small glimpse of grey amongst the the vibrant green of the kelp around the temperate coastal waters could be no other then the incredible Broadnose Sevengill shark! Hinted by their common name, these sharks have seven pairs of gill slits – unlike the typical five. These sharks can reach up to 3 metres long and are commonly misidentified as the other species of sevengill the Sharpnose Sevengill. The Broadnose is distinguished by small black and white freckles on their fins and underside and a much larger head then the Sharpnose.
Unlike many other sharks in the Hexanidae family (Cowsharks), this species prefers waters of less then 50 m in depth; sometimes being found in river estuaries where the depth is around 1m! However, Brodnose’s make seasonal migration during the winter to the continental shelves, following their food and sexually mature females.
Broadnose Sevengill’s have a unique tooth shape in their lower jaws: they are shaped like combs which they use to anchor into their prey. This sharks favourite snacks large fish (including other sharks) and crustaceans but they have been videoed eating carrion (dead/decaying bodies), making them scavengers. There are even reports of cannibalism as the older sharks eat the younger to reduce competition. Once they’ve eaten a meal they wont have to eat again for weeks, in fact, in a month they only consume 6% of their body weight!
Predominantly being a solitary shark, they do sometimes congregate in groups to hunt. They mainly do this to get to bigger prey which could be too much work for a single shark. Stalking behind their prey, these sevengill’s will then rapidly burst out to chase down their prey.
Sevengill’ are ovoviviparous and can give birth to 60-180 pups, an incredibly high amount. The pups remain in the shallow waters until they reach a certain size to help avoid predators.
Recent carcasses of these sevengill’s have been found worldwide, all with their livers missing. Who could be behind this series of surgically-precise murders other then the infamous Orca. Orca, or Killer Whales,purposefully seek out Broadnose Sevengill sharks for their livers rich in fats, making a high calorie snack for these mammals. The Orca turn the shark over on their backs, putting them in a state of tonic immobility, and then using their sharp conical teeth they precisely remove the liver leaving the rest of the shark as it doesn’t have the same nutritional value. However, a few videos have emerged of these Orcas then playing with their food, pushing the dead sharks body up and down with their snouts!
Orca’s aren’t the only mammal to purposefully hunt down these sharks as the Broadnose Sevengill’s are also targeted by humans for their meat, skin for leather, and their oil, however, their main threat is being caught as by-catch during industrial fishing. The IUCN lists them as Data Deficient, however, it is expected that they are Near Threatened.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Notorynchus cepedianus
MAXIMUM SIZE: Up to 3.3 meters (10.8 feet) in length
DIET: Feeds on a variety of prey including fish, squid, crustaceans, and even other sharks
DISTRIBUTION: Broadnose Sevengill Sharks have a cosmopolitan distribution, found in coastal and offshore waters in temperate and tropical regions worldwide.
HABITAT: Found in a variety of habitats, including estuaries, bays, and shallow reefs, as well as deeper waters of up to 150 meters (492 feet) in depth.
While there is little data on population trends, this species is known to be caught as bycatch in some commercial and recreational fisheries, and there is also concern over the impact of habitat loss and degradation on their populations.
For more great shark information and conservation visit the Shark Trust Website
Banner image – Aaron Scheiner | Wikimedia Commons
In-text Image – derekkeats | Wikimedia Commons
In-text Image – Coco | Wikimedia Commons
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