Goblin Sharks: Ugly but not deadly

Due to its name and apperance, goblin sharks are one of the most misunderstood type of sharks.

The goblin in most tales we hear since childhood are evil, grotesque small creatures. They are greedy and are deeply attached to gold.  However, the only characteristic that the goblin sharks possess is the grotesque form but not definitely the other seemingly evil and malicious magical powers its namesake have.

The goblin sharks are not a sight to behold, often referred as the “ugliest living shark”, others call it as “aliens” but we have to understand that form has functions.

Its quite unique head and its pink flabby body. But do know why it got this appearance? Because its beak-like snout looking like a trowel is used for deep-sea exploration.

It was first seen in 1898 by a marine biologist named John Carlson and labeled it under the Mitsukurina owstoni . It also looks the same with the fossil Scapanorhynchus found in 1889.  Its scientific name came from the name of two scientists who discovered it:  Kakichi Mitsukuri and Alan Owston.

The goblin shark is known in  the same name in the USA, Australia, UK and South Africa. It is also known in other names such as: Japanese neushaai (Netherlands), mitsukurizame ( Japan), requin lutin (France) and ensuháfur (Icelandia).


When the goblin opens its jaws, its long snout looking like that of Pinnochio. Its teeth are razor-sharp and can serve like a claw when it detects its prey. And when it caught its prey, it will never have a chance to survive.

And since it lives on very deep water, sunshine is not its bestfriend, thus it has very small eyes and relies on its other senses to detect its prey as well as possible predators.  It can go as deep as 4,265 feet.

Because its habitat is too deep, it is not a harm for humans. But some goblin sharks are taken in a depth of 200 to 920 feet and this is the depth for some recreational scuba divers.

Little is known for the goblin sharks especially on its reproduction and mating skills. No pregnant female goblin shark has ever been recorded. But there are a few that were collected and brought in the museum and public pools for the public to see and understand this deep-sea dweller. But its survival rate above deep-sea depth is very short. One goblin shark brought to Tokai University only lived for a week, another in Tokyo for only two days.

Its diet consists of squids, crabs, shrimps, deep sea fishes and other living organisms that thrive underwater. It found in the regions of Australia, Portugal, Australia, Japan and Atlantic Ocean. Only a few of it has been sighted and caught, thus little is known for its economic value or its population.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) only listed it under the Least Concern.

There are only two species of it caught in Gulf of Mexico and the first in 2000. As Carl Moore, the fisherman who caught it exclaimed, Man! It’s ugly!” 

But for the John Carlson, a research biologist of  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “For some it indeed looks ugly, but it is very interesting!” Little is known about this and besides, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. So much is still unknown in this prehistoric-like sea creature. 

The goblin sharks is a doorway for us humanity to better understand the fauna in deep water.

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