The shark has also been named the “elfin shark” or the “Mitsukurina owstoni.”  For many, it evokes images of long-extinct dinosaurs. The species is believed to date back 125 million years. 


Goblin Shark Appearance 

The goblin shark’s appearance is what sets it apart from other sharks. There is no mistaking this deep-sea creature for anything other than what it is. It has pink-toned skin and a distinctive snout shape. It is elongated and flat with a protruding jaw and skinny, incredibly sharp teeth. These sharks usually grow to around 10-13 feet in length when mature, but it’s feasible that some specimen get much larger around 20 feet. 

Goblin sharks have flabby bodies and small fins, something that also contributes to their unusual appearance. They’re far slower than other sharks and have been described as “sluggish in nature.” 

Their usual snouts also have an interesting ability. They are covered in what is known as ampullae of Lorenzini. These ampullae allow them to sense the electric fields produced by prey. 

goblin shark nose


Goblin Shark Habitat 

Goblin sharks are benthopelagic, meaning that they live and feed near the bottom of the ocean. They live around canyons, continental slopes, and depths around 100 meters or 330 feet. Some scientists, as cited in  “First Record of the Goblin Shark Mitsukurina owstoni, Jordan (Family Mitsukurinidae) in the Gulf of Mexico” believe that these sharks could briefly dive far deeper, up to 1,300 meters or 4,270 feet. 

Sharks have been found in the three major oceans, the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian. They are widely spread and, as noted above, live at depths that make it unusual for the everyday person to see one of these creatures. There are records of these sharks around southern Brazil, France, Madeira, and all the way east to Senegal. Most commonly, the species is found in the upper continental slope.

Goblin Shark Diet 

Goblin sharks are primarily interested in prey that also lives near the bottom of the seafloor. This includes crustaceans and cephalopods as well as some fish, like dragonfish and rattails. Interestingly, there are also instances in which scientists have recorded these sharks feeding far above their natural habitat. Midwater pretty like some species of squid such as the Teuthowenia pellucida have been discovered in the stomachs of some specimen. 

It’s believed, although not verified, that the goblin shark is an ambush predator. This is based off the fact that the shark is quite slow in its movements. It may drift through the water and use its jaws once prey comes within range. 

rattail fish
The rattail, one species of fish the goblin shark preys on.


Goblin Shark Reproduction 

Like other rare breeds of sharks, little is known about the goblin shark’s reproductive habits. Scientists have yet to capture or study a pregnant female. Most scientists believe that the goblin shark shares its reproductive habits with the mackerel shark. They are viviparous animals, meaning that the embryo develops inside the body of the parent. (The opposite of oviparity in which the female lays eggs.) Their birth size is probably around 32 inches or 82 centimeters. Juvenile sharks are also known to stay at slightly higher depths than their adult counterparts. 

Male maturity has been recorded at around 8.5 feet in length. The same male sharks have been estimated at living to be around 60 years old.

Threats to Goblin Sharks

Although goblin sharks are rare, they’ve been categorized by the IUCN as “Least Concern,” meaning that they are not at threat of extinction. They are widely distributed and rarely seen by humans, two things that have allowed their population numbers to remain stable. Other conservation groups, like the New Zealand Department of Conservation, have categorized the shark as “At Risk – Naturally Uncommon.”

The shark poses few dangers to humans, mostly due to the fact that it appears to be non-aggressive and lives at such vast depths. Only a few specimens have ever been captured and brought to aquariums, all of which only lived a short period of time. The shark is sometimes found, as most sea creatures are, as a product of bycatch. This means that it is caught up in the nets meant for other sea creatures. But, the shark itself is not targeted by fisheries and has rarely been eaten or utilized in any way. 

Facts about Goblin Shark

  • The goblin shark lives deep beneath the sea. 
  • Its most distinguishing feature is its large, unusual snout. 
  • They grow to around 10-13 feet in length. 
  • Goblin sharks are rarely seen by humans. 
  • In 2003, 100 sharks were captured off the coast of Taiwan (likely due to a nearby earthquake). 


FAQs 

What eats a goblin shark?

It’s unclear which predators a goblin shark is threatened by due to the relatively little scientists know about the creatures. But, it’s like that blue sharks and other larger sharks eat then. 

Why is it called a goblin shark? 

The creature’s common name is a translation of the Japanese name “tenguzame.” The word “tengu” references a mythical creature with a long nose and a red face.

Are goblin sharks aggressive?

Goblin sharks pose no danger to humans. They feed on crustaceans, cephalopods, and some types of fish. 

Where is the goblin shark found? 

The goblin shark has been found around the world. It resides in all three major oceans at depths of around 330 feet. These sharks have been recorded around Brazil, France, Portugal, the Gulf of Mexico, and Senegal (among other countries and areas). 

Do goblin sharks live in the Mariana Trench?

Yes, goblin sharks live at great depths and have been known to roam the deep trenches, like the Mariana. 

Why are goblin sharks pink?

Goblin sharks are pink because their skin is translucent. This means that the blood vessels are visible through their skin. 

Featured image credit: Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria