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.
Map Of The Goblin Shark’s Habitat
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
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.
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.
10 Interesting Goblin Shark Facts
The Goblin Shark is not a pretty shark, and that is being polite. In fact, it is probably one of the strangest-looking and ugliest sharks you are likely to come across. The shark is rarely seen, and it is the only living species of a family of sharks that has otherwise died out. For that reason, it is sometimes referred to as a “living fossil.” It is a large shark, usually 3-4 m (10-13 ft), with a long, protruding snout and an unusual jaw. Let’s see if you know these 10 Goblin Shark facts:
1. The Vampire Shark?
The Goblin Shark is sometimes called the Vampire Shark, as if it wasn’t scary-looking enough to begin with. The reason it is called a vampire is because it avoids the light by living deep in the sea. Goblin Sharks have been found at depths from 270 m to as deep as 1300 m (890 ft to 4300 ft). The vampires avoid the sunlight by sleeping in coffins, but the shark just goes to waters so deep that there is virtually no light.
2. The Goblin Shark Is not as Scary as It Looks
The Goblin Shark mostly feeds on fish, mollusks and crab, and it poses no real danger to humans. It lives in very deep water, far from humans, and it is thought to be a poor swimmer and have bad eyesight. There are no reported incidents of Goblin Sharks attacking humans. On the other hand, Goblin Sharks sometimes fall prey to other sharks, like the Blue Shark, themselves.
3. The Goblin Shark Has a Japanese Name
The scientific name of the Goblin Shark is Mitsukurina Owstoni. That is because the first specimen was found off the coast of Japan in 1898 by a naturalist called Alan Owston. He didn’t know what it was, and passed the strange creature onto a Japanese scientist, Kakichi Mitsuriki. When the shark was finally identified, it was named for these two men. But the name Goblin Shark is also a literal translation of its name in Japanese, tengu-zame. In Japanese mythology, a Tengu is a half-man, half-bird creature with red skin and a long nose, so the name fits.
4. The Ugly Color Is Good Camouflage
The Goblin Shark appears pinkish or even outright red, if it is older, because the blood vessels show through its skin. This is an advantage in deep water, because red looks black in the depths of the sea, and this helps the shark blend in with its surroundings Since the Goblin Shark creeps up on its prey, the camouflage color helps it hide in plain sight.
5. Goblin Sharks Do not Like Being Away from Home
On a few occasions, Goblin Sharks have been caught alive and placed in aquariums. Each time, they have quickly died, living only a few days to a week in captivity, making this one of the sadder Goblin Shark facts. They clearly need their natural habitat in order to survive.
6. Home Is Almost Anywhere with Deep Water
The Goblin Shark has a worldwide distribution. It can be found in all the world’s major oceans. Specimens have been hauled up by fishermen in Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico, France, Portugal and Senegal. It has also been found off the coasts of Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, Australia and even California.
7. An Accordion Jaw
The odd-looking jaw of the Goblin Shark can expand forward to sweep up prey that passes by. Because the shark is slow and clumsy, it can’t rely on hunting down prey, but instead waits for the prey to come near. When the prey is near enough, it snaps its jaw forward to grab it. The jaw is filled with small sharp teeth in the front for grabbing fish, and flatter teeth in the back for grinding up mollusks.
8. That Incredible Nose Is not just for Show
The Goblin Shark has a snout that is elongated and looks like a giant blade, called a rostrum. It protrudes far ahead of its jaw. It seems like an odd body part, but it functions as a prey detector, because it is filled with electroreceptors, called ampullae of Lorenzini. These receptors pick up tiny electrical fields of prey. The Goblin Shark sweeps its long snout back and forth over the seabed, as if the snout were a metal detector, to find its food.
9. Safe from Humans
The Goblin Shark is not considered endangered or threatened, because of its secluded habitat. Just as it lives so far from humans as not to threaten them, its quiet life in the deep sea is far from fishing nets and pollution that could threaten the shark. There are some reports of fishermen fishing for the Goblin Shark in Japan and in Portugal, but fishing for this strange creature is not common.
10. Is the Goblin Shark Really Rare?
The Goblin Shark is often described as being rare. At the same time, specimens have turned up across the globe. It is quite possible that the shark is common rather than rare. The rare thing is that humans come across the shark. Because it has so far proved impossible to keep the shark alive in captivity, and given the deep water in which it lives, knowledge of the shark is limited. Scientists don’t know, for example, exactly how the shark reproduces, because a female with eggs has never been caught. So, it is probably more accurate to say that the shark is rarely seen and that we don’t know much about it, including whether it is common or rare.