Sharks have been one of the biggest influences on ocean ecology, as well as one of the largest ocean predators. They provide stability in the ocean world and shape marine ecosystems. Sharks can be elusive, and this makes them harder to study, they also take longer to mature than other animals, and their reproductive capacity is small.
What is the Goblin Shark?
There are many known species of sharks, around 440 different species to be exact, and almost none as elusive as the strange Goblin Shark. Goblin Sharks live in the deep and dark parts of the ocean along the continental shelves. They are rarely seen along the water’s surface or in any shallow coastal waters. They can most often be found off of the coast of Japan, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. Goblin Sharks are usually only seen when they move from one part of the ocean to the other in search of food or warmer water.
They were first discovered off of the coast of Japan in the year 1898. The Goblin Shark may very well be the last known member of the ancient lineage that came from the Crustaceous Period several million years ago, because of this they have also come to be called, “Living Fossils.”
What do Goblin Sharks Look Like?
Named after the mythical goblin creatures in Japanese Folklore, Goblin Sharks live up to the name. They have very long and narrow snouts filled with extremely sharp and needle-like teeth. They come from the Mitsukurinidae family, and their scientific name is Mitsukurina Owstoni.
It is believed that their population is stable, but because they live so deep in the ocean and they are never actually seen, it is hard to study them or even know their exact numbers. Due to the depth of water in which they live blanketed by the darkness, their skin appears almost translucent and you can see their blood vessels right beneath the skin’s surface. They resemble a disfigured or mangled shark because of their outward appearance. Their bodies are a very pale gray in color, with a pinkish-white belly underneath. The pinkish tint is due to the blood vessels seen under the skin.
How do Goblin Sharks Eat?
Goblin Sharks have extendable jaws and have also been known as “Vampire Sharks” because of their very sharp and fang-like teeth. The Goblin Shark will draw its prey in using a sucking motion and then extend their jaws far from their mouth to grab their prey. They have too many teeth in their mouth and are one of the few species where you can see their teeth even while their mouth is closed.
They have around 53 rows of teeth located on the upper jaw and 62 rows of teeth lining the lower jaw. While the front teeth are extremely sharp, their back teeth are flat and designed for crushing.
Their long snout also called the rostrum is to aid them in finding food sources in the dark. They use their senses to find their prey. They have a sense organ located in their snout called an ampulla of Lorenzini. They are sluggish and flabby creatures, so they are slow. Their snouts help them find food in the dark without having to chase their prey down. Goblin sharks eat small and large fish, stingrays, mollusks, and crabs.
How Big can Goblin Sharks Get?
The largest adult male Goblin Shark that has been found was 8.66 feet long (264 cm). The biggest adult female was found to be only slightly smaller at 12.2 feet long (372 cm). The largest reported weight of the Goblin Shark was 463 pounds (210kg).
These numbers may vary, and they are only based on the Goblin Sharks that scientists have been able to locate and study.
Little is known about the reproductive processes of the Goblin Shark, compared to other species, because they hide so deep under the water. The presence of mystery surrounding these elusive creatures makes it hard to study, especially when they aren’t seen that often. Scientists are under the assumption that they have live births, like other species of shark. They consider the Goblin Shark to be ovoviviparous.
Being ovoviviparous means that females may carry the eggs inside their body and then they hatch inside the body and the female gives birth to the live baby sharks. There is also evidence that suggests this might happen during the springtime. They have not been able to capture a pregnant female to confirm their theories.
Why are Sharks Important to the Ocean’s Ecosystem?
Sharks are on the top of the food chain, and they keep the fish population stable and proportionate. They eat the slower and weaker fish which maintains a balance in the ocean’s structure. If sharks were extinct, then this balance would be thrown off, and the ecosystems structure would eventually collapse.
Along with controlling the fish population, sharks also keep sea grass beds and other ocean habitats healthy. They prevent the other animals from overgrazing in certain areas. The sharks keep them moving from spot to spot.
Without sharks, there could be devastating and unpredictable consequences from deteriorating sea life to the overpopulation of other species.
More Fun Facts about the Goblin Shark
- Referred to as the ugliest look species of shark
- They are loners and keep to themselves
- They have the ability to keep their bodies completely still
- They are extremely curious creatures and tend to go where they shouldn’t
- One-quarter of their weight is due to their large livers. The liver’s weight also helps them with buoyancy
While the Goblin Shark may look terrifying in appearance, it is quite fascinating. They continue to elude scientists and have kept their air of mystery for the time being. Until we can get a closer look at them and study them further, there are many unknowns to this unusual creature.