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  • Naomi Zhao

Goblin shark

Goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

The Goblin shark, scientifically known as Mitsukurina owstoni, is a rare deep-sea shark species. Often referred to as a "living fossil," it represents the sole surviving member of the Mitsukurinidae family, a lineage that dates back approximately 125 million years. Some researchers speculate that these sharks may undertake dives to depths of up to 1,300 meters, albeit for brief durations.

Goblin shark image
Goblin shark

Goblin shark anatomy and appearance

The physical characteristics of Goblin sharks make them instantly recognizable. They have long, slender bodies that can grow to be 13 feet (4 meters) long. What truly distinguishes them is their unusual snout, which protrudes prominently from their heads and resembles a long, pointed blade. This snout, known as a "rostrum," is outfitted with a slew of sensors that allow Goblin sharks to detect and capture prey in the deep sea's darkness. Their skin is semi-translucent and frequently appears pink due to the presence of blood vessels close to the surface, lending them an otherworldly appearance.

Goblin shark habitat

Goblin sharks are true deep dwellers, inhabiting the bathypelagic and mesopelagic zones of the ocean at depths ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 meters (3,280 to 9,842 feet). Extreme pressure, near-freezing temperatures, and perpetual darkness characterize these depths. Goblin sharks have been spotted in waters all over the world, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Goblin shark habitat
BlankMap-World-noborders.png, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Goblin shark diet

These mysterious sharks are opportunistic predators that feed on a wide range of deep-sea creatures. Their main food sources are small fish, squid, and crustaceans. Goblin sharks hunt invisibly, using their highly specialized jaws to extend and snap at prey before quickly retracting their jaw to secure a meal. Their needle-like elongated teeth are ideal for grasping and capturing slippery prey in the pitch-black abyss.

Image below shows a Goblin shark with an open mouth and extended jaws:

Goblin shark jaws
By Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria -

Goblin shark population

Because of their remote habitat and few encounters with humans, goblin sharks remain one of the least understood shark species. The number of Goblin Sharks is unknown, but the majority of scientists do not believe the species is endangered. These sharks typically avoid areas where humans hunt and do not appear to face many threats from humans. Ongoing research aims to shed light on the population dynamics and distribution of these animals.

Goblin shark conservation

Due to their deep-sea habitat and limited interactions with fisheries, goblin sharks are not a major target for commercial exploitation. They are listed on the IUCN Red List as 'Least Concerned'. However, they can occasionally become victims of bycatch in deep-sea trawl fisheries, and there is concern about the potential impacts of deep-sea mining and climate change on their habitat. As with many deep-sea species, more research is needed to assess their conservation status accurately and develop appropriate conservation measures.

Other interesting Goblin shark facts

Goblin sharks have several distinct characteristics in the shark world. They are thought to have one of the slowest growth rates of any shark species, with individuals maturing over several years. Furthermore, their long, slender bodies and soft, flabby muscles indicate that they are adapted to a sedentary lifestyle, conserving energy in the energy-depleted deep-sea environment. The mystery surrounding goblin sharks continues to captivate scientists, fueling ongoing research efforts to uncover their secrets and better understand these enigmatic creatures of the deep.


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