Truth be told, humans have learned very little in regards to Goblin Sharks. While there are a few key factors that we are clear about, there is a plethora of specifics that we are completely unaware of. Although we have much to learn about these magnificent creatures, their physical appearances are familiar to us, and we can certainly identify one if it showed up in our vicinity (even though the chances of that happening is highly unlikely).
The coloration, snout and tooth structure of Goblin Sharks is what makes them extremely unique and easy to pick out of a crowd. Believe it or not, their bodies range from pinkish gray to bubblegum pink in color. Many people feel that this particularly rare color scheme is almost uncharacteristic for sharks; personally, I encourage them to embrace their individuality!
A Transparent Shark?
To make matters even more intriguing, the pink color of the sharks actually does not derive from pink pigments in their skin. In fact, these sharks have a translucent dermis (skin) that enables us to see the oxygenated blood within their capillaries. Just in case you’re unsure, a capillary is a minuscule blood vessel. Basically, to a certain extent, we can actually see through the skin of these sharks. How incredible is that!
Unique Snout and Tooth Structures
The snout and tooth structure are just as unique as their skin. These sharks have overhanging snouts that are tremendously elongated, yet flattened, and they form a blade-like appearance. The Goblin Shark’s long, slender, exceptionally sharp fang-like teeth are connected to their protruding yet extremely soft and delicate jaws. Some even describe these sharks as being “snaggle-toothed.” To make matters even more intricate, the snouts of these sharks are sprinkled with electro-sensitive ampullae of Lorenzini, which are tiny receptors that pick up electric fields. Because of the shape and look of its rubbery snout and fang-like teeth, they have been given numerous nicknames including “elfin shark,” “tiburon duende” (Spanish for “hobgoblin shark”), and “requin lutin” (French for “imp shark”).
Unique Exterior Features
While some body parts of this shark are highly pronounced, this is not exactly the case for all of their external anatomy. The bodies of these sharks can best be describes as flabby, and their skin is very soft. In addition, their myotomes (muscle blocks) are not well developed, and they have small eyes. The fins of these sharks also differ from others because while they do have especially large, rounded anal fins, the ventral lobe of their asymmetrical caudal fins are not well developed, and they have a low thrust angle; this feature is usually prominent on sharks that swim sluggishly. When it comes to the size of this shark, their average length is approximately 5 feet (1.6 m), however the largest recorded length is 12.6 feet (3.8m). This particularly large length was calculated for a male but it is very possible that the females have the ability to grow even longer.
Based on their physical attributes, which have been detailed above, it is believed that these creatures are indeed sluggish and they prefer to dwell in a mid-water habitat. We do know that they can swim in depths of 130 to 3,940 ft (40 m to 1,200 m), however the majority of these fish that have been caught were at depths of 200 ft to 920 ft (60 m to 280 m) off the shores of Japan. In fact, about half of the known Goblin Sharks were spotted in the waters of Japan, mostly in Sagami and Suruga Bays. Other sightings took place in Southern Africa, Kaikura, New Zealand, and Madeira.
Diet and Hunting Tactics
The Goblins choice of food is still being verified by scientists, however, there have been a few sharks whose stomach contents have been investigated. In four different countries (Japan, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand) scientists have searched the stomachs of seven Goblin Sharks in hopes of better understanding what it is they prefer to eat. In Japan, they found partly digested vertebrae, fin rays, muscle blocks, and crab remains. The stomachs in South Africa contained Jacopever (a deepwater rock-fish), crab remains, and octopus. The stomach of a relatively large Goblin Shark only held a teleost (bony fish) swim bladder. In New Zealand, a small shark’s stomach simply contained a shark eye lens. Although it is rare to find a record of their stomach contents, there have been investigations including mesopelagic teleosts, which are bony fish that live 200 m (650 ft.) to around 1000 m (3280 ft.) below sea level, squid, and myodocopida ostracods.
Many of the animals found in the stomachs of various Goblin Sharks live in a mid- water habitat, and they migrate in vertical fashion. It is currently believed that these sharks prefer to spend the majority of their time in a mid-water habitat for these particular reasons, although it was previously believed that they were deepwater dwellers.
One of the most interesting features of this shark is the way they bit their food source. Their mouth actually extends outward from their body and can move independently. A truly amazing ability!
As mentioned earlier, Goblin Sharks have ampullae of Lorenzini covering their snouts, and small eyes. It is believed that their eyes are small enough to detect any possible flicker that may giveaway possible prey, and that they work together with the ampulla to find food. We are not completely sure, but it seems as if Goblin Sharks stay motionless until its prey has come within a close proximity, they then ambush utilizing their protrusile jaws, pharyngeal suction, and electro-sensitivity.
Reproduction and Offspring
Scientists have determined that this fish is Ovoviviparous. This means that embryos hatch from their mother’s eggs while they are still in her uterus, and she gives births to live pups once ready. Unfortunately, however, this is the only information regarding the reproduction process of Goblin Sharks that we are aware of.
Goblin Sharks are undoubtedly peculiar and fascinating creatures. And although it is believed that there are many of them in existence, humans have very rarely run into these mysterious, secretive sharks. They are fished commercially in Japan, however this is also extremely minimal. If a Goblin Shark has been captured, it is usually due to a casualty catch.