Interesting Facts About “Living Fossil” Sharks

Sharks have been living on the planet for 450 million years. Two species, the goblin shark and frilled sharks, are among the oldest living species on the planet. Learning more about these two sharks can help us understand more about the sharks from prehistoric times. So here are some facts about these two ancient species aka “Living Fossil” Sharks.

Goblin Shark Facts

Goblin sharks are 125 million years old. They are the oldest known species of shark on the planet. They evolved during the Cretaceous Period and shared our planet with dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Here are some incredible goblin sharks facts you may not know!

  • The first known sighting of a goblin shark was in 1898 off the coast of Japan.
  • Less than 50 goblin sharks have ever been caught or observed by humans.
  • Goblin sharks cannot survive in captivity. There have been two different goblin sharks in captivity in history, and both of them died within a few days.
  • Though very few humans have seen a goblin shark since they live so deep below the surface, it is believed they are a very common species of shark.
  • A goblin shark’s long nose is used as an electromagnetic sensory organ to detect prey. Researchers believe it may also be used to dig up prey from the ocean floor.
  • Goblin sharks are so strange looking that most sightings start with people thinking they have found a disfigured or diseased shark.
  • Though they appear to have pink skin, their skin is actually translucent and their coloring is just the color of their flesh underneath.
  • Goblin sharks grow between 10 and 13 feet long. Though they have caught a large female that was 18 feet in length.
  • They have five pairs of gill slits, two of which are located above the dorsal fin.
  • Goblin sharks hunt along continental slopes, submarine canyons, and seamounts at depths below 330 feet.
  • They are sometimes called “vampire sharks” because goblin sharks hate the sunlight.
  • They have small eyes that have no nictitating membrane.
  • Goblin sharks have large livers that helps keep them buoyant. This buoyancy may help them ambush prey without detection.
  • Goblin sharks have small fins and flabby bodies, so it is thought they are slow hunters.
  • Goblin sharks trap their prey by jutting out their jaw and pulling the food back into their mouths.
  • They have long, skinny teeth and tend to just catch their prey and swallow it whole.
  • Goblin sharks mostly eat squid, crabs, dragon fish, and rattails.
  • A pregnant goblin shark has never been found, so little is known about their reproductive activities. Researchers guess they are viviparous, giving live birth to pups.
  • Goblin sharks swim so deep, they pose no threat to humans at all.

Frilled Shark Facts

Frilled sharks are the second oldest species of shark on the planet. These sharks can trace their evolutionary beginning 80 million years to the late Cretaceous period. There are two known species of frilled sharks, the Frilled Shark and the smaller Southern African Frilled Shark.

  • Frilled sharks were once thought to be an even older species of shark because of their prehistoric features. However recently scientists have classified them as part of the more modern cow shark order.
  • Frilled sharks have a wide range and are present in oceans all across the world.
  • Frilled sharks are deep water fish, found between 390 feet up to 4200 feet below the surface of the ocean. Though is thought they may like to hunt closer to the surface at night time.
  • Though shaped like an eel, they do not swim like them. Frilled sharks are believed to hover in water.
  • Frilled sharks have large livers making the neutrally buoyant in deep water.
  • Frilled sharks have 25 rows of 300 backward facing trident shaped teeth. This is a really unusual tooth structure, unique to frilled sharks.
  • They have an incredibly large mouth and can take in prey twice their length.
  • Though it is has never been observed hunting, scientists believe that frilled sharks kill their prey by striking at them like snakes.
  • They have unusually large eyes and two small slits for nostrils.
  • They are believed to prey on squid, fish, and small sharks.
  • Frilled sharks have six gills around their neck, the edges of which are frilly which gives the appear of a frilled collar.
  • They are either grey or brown in color.
  • They have small pectoral and dorsal fins but a long anal fin. They also have a very long upper caudal fin that gives them a more snakelike appearance.
  • They have sharp dermal denticles, scales shaped like chisels on their tails. These are thought to protect them against predators.
  • They have small hair cells that help them detect movements of prey in the water.
  • Male frilled sharks are smaller than female frilled sharks. Males tend to be around 5 feet in length, while females tend to be 6 feet in length.
  • Female sharks gestation period is 3.5 years long.
  • Frilled sharks are ovoviviparous, which means that the embryos developing in the uterus live of a yolk sac.
  • Female give birth to small litters with an average of only 2 to 10 offspring.
  • Pups are born when they reach 16 to 24 inches long.
  • It is believed that frilled shark sightings are responsible for the myths of sea serpents.
  • Since they live in such deep waters, frilled sharks pose no threat to humans.
  • Frilled sharks do not thrive in captivity. Only one has ever been captured and it died within hours.
  • Frilled sharks are not hunted but can sometimes be caught as a byproduct of commercial fishing.

These two ancient species are fascinating sharks. Learning more about them can help us understand more about other prehistoric sharks that are now extinct. Since they are such deep sea creatures, there is still plenty to learn and researchers are constantly working to find out more.