March Elasmobranch of the Month: Goblin Shark
Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) Key Features The most distinguishing feature of the goblin shark is its elongated and flat snout, which protrudes over their extendable jaws (where they have 3 rows of anterior teeth)! Sharks have heteroceral caudal fin which means the upper and lower lobes are unequal in size. The goblin shark actually has no lower caudal lobe! The soft and transparent body of the goblin sharks means the coloration is usually pink-white with gray-blue fins. Once a goblin shark dies, the skin color turns grey. This species reaches 3.2 m, with the largest recorded goblin shark being over 5 m!
Goblin Shark Image Source: Discovery Channel
Fun fact: The goblin shark is the only species in the family Mitskukurinidae that is not extinct! The goblin shark is so rare it is not filmed very often. It wasn’t until 2008 the goblin shark was filmed in its natural habitat using its jaw to fully engulf prey!
Slingshot Feeding of a Goblin Shark. Credit: Earth Touch News FULL ARTICLE HERE
Habitat Although the goblin shark has been found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, most sightings have come from Japan (Duffy et al., 2004), inhabiting areas of the outer continental shelf and the upper slope (Shark Trust, 2010). Depth-wise, the goblin shark primarily inhabits those wasters associated with the deep-sea (> 200 m) however have been found in shallower waters. Food Source Typically, the goblin shark feeds on other deep-sea fish such as the rattail and various crab species. As with any shark species, the goblin shark also preys upon octopus and squid as well as other soft bodied organisms. Status The goblin shark is listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Threats The goblin shark is rarely caught as bycatch in both deep-sea fisheries but may be vulnerable to ghost fishing gear. Back in 2003, more than 100 were caught off the coast of Taiwan in a two-week period (Duffy et al., 2004; Shark Trust, 2010) however this is irregular.
VIDEO OF A PRESERVED SPECIMEN FROM EARTH TOUCH NEWS
References Duffy CAJ, Ebert DA and Stenberg C. 2004. Mitsukurina owstoni. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2004: e, T44565A10907385. Shark Trust. 2010. An illustrated compendium of sharks, skates, rays and chimaera. Chapter 1: The British Isles and Northeast Atlantic.