There have been fewer than 100 confirmed sightings of the megamouth shark, an elusive deep-sea species that uses its huge maw to trap tiny bits of plankton and krill. So when a 15-foot specimen washed ashore in the Philippines this week, scientists were more than overjoyed.

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Reports the Washington Post,

"We know so little about it," Christopher Bird, a PhD candidate who studies deep-sea sharks at University of Southampton, said of the megamouth species. "It wasn't discovered really until 1976. It's only really seen when it's accidentally caught in fishermen's nets or when it is stranded on beaches."...

Most of the previous sightings have occurred in the Pacific Ocean near Taiwan, Japan or the Philippines — though the sharks have been occasionally caught elsewhere. But they have been so rarely spotted that it is unknown exactly how big the world's population might be, and where most of them reside, according to researchers.

When they do appear — which usually occurs when they swim closer to the surface to follow their food, it offers a rare opportunity to examine the little-known creature.

Despite their fearsome appearance (those mouths contain as many as 50 rows of teeth!), they're "relatively docile." This breathless Discovery Channel video shows one in action, coolly going after krill and only krill, despite a camera being shoved in its bored-looking face.

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Lower image via Mental Floss; top image via Washington Post.