Megamouth Shark
© The Independent, UK
An extremely rare female deep-water megamouth shark has been caught off the coast of Shizuoka in Japan, in what is believed to be only the 58th known sighting of the animal on record.

The distinctive looking creature was hauled from a depth of 2,600 ft and weighed almost 1,500lbs.

The name 'megamouth' is derived from the disproportionate size of its huge head and the enormous capacity of its mouth, which is kept open as it swims in order to filter water for plankton and jelly fish.

Only 13 sightings of the sharks off the coast of Japan have been recorded. Over 1,500 people gathered to watch the 13ft long animal's necropsy, which scientists are hoping will help them learn more about the unusual species.

The sharks can grow to a maximum length of between 17 and 18 ft and were only recognised as a species almost 30 years ago when the first megamouth was caught in the sea anchor of a US Navy ship off the coast of Hawaii.

Its remains can now be viewed at The Marine Science Museum in Shizuoka, The Japan Daily Press reported.