Goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Click to enlarge image
Australian Museum specimen of the Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni. Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    owstoni
    Genus
    Mitsukurina
    Family
    Mitsukurinidae
    Order
    Lamniformes
    Class
    Chondrichthyes
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 3.9 m in length.

Introduction

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.



Identification

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).



Habitat

The species is found near the sea floor in marine waters to depths of about 1200 m.



Distribution

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.



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

It is not considered dangerous to humans.



References

  • 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.