Animal Species:Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan, 1898
The very strange-looking Goblin Shark has a distinctively shaped snout and an impressive array of long, pointed teeth. The fish, however, is found in deep water and poses no threat to people.
Standard Common Name
The Goblin Shark has a shovel-like snout, flabby body, and a tail with a weakly developed lower lobe.
One of the distinctive features of the Goblin Shark is its protrusible mouth. The mouth can retract to a position under the eye, or extend forward under the snout.
The species was named in honour of Alan Owston (1853-1915), an "English collector of Asian Wildlife, as well as a businessman and yachtsman" (Beolens & Watkins, 2003).
The species grows to 3.9 m in length.
The Goblin Shark has been caught in scattered localities through the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In Australia it is known from off New South Wales, Tasmania and possibly from off South Australia.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
Distribution by collection data
The species is found near the sea floor in marine waters to depths of about 1200 m.
Feeding and Diet
Yano and colleagues examined the stomach contents of 121 Goblin Sharks from Tokyo Submarine Canyon. Prey items included bony fishes, squids and crustaceans.
When feeding, the Goblin Shark extends its jaws forward faster than any other species of shark. See the scientific report on Slingshot Feeding by Nakaya and colleagues.
Other behaviours and adaptations
The underside of the snout is heavily pored. These pores are the external openings of the ampullae of Lorenzini, the electricity detecting organs. The Goblin Shark most likely hunts its prey by detecting electric fields.
Danger to humans and first aid
It is not considered dangerous to humans.
- Beolens, B. & M. Watkins. 2003. Whose bird? Men and women commemorated in the common names of birds. Christopher Helm. Pp. 384.
- Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513, Pl. 1-84.
- Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Edition 2. CSIRO. Pp. 644, Pl. 1-91.
- Nakaya, K., Tomita, T., Suda, K., Sato, K., Ogimoto, K., Chappell, A., Sato, T., Takano, K.m & Y. Yuki, 2016. Slingshot feeding of the goblin shark Mitsukurina owstoni (Pisces: Lamniformes: Mitsukurinidae). Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 27786 Online 212 June 2016.
- Wilga, C.D. 2005. Morphology and Evolution of the Jaw Suspension in Lamniform Sharks. Journal of Morphology. 265:102–119. Download.
- Yano, K., Miya, M., Aizawa, M. & T.
Noichi. 2003. Abstracts. 2003 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Pp. 533.
Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Tags fishes, ichthyology, Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, Mitsukurinidae, Lamnidae, deep water, shovel-like snout, flabby body, protrusible mouth, > 2m, deepsea, pointed teeth, long teeth, adult, marine, grey, gray,