The goblin shark is a fascinating species that lives in the open ocean from near the surface down to depths of at least 4265 feet (1300 m). Like many species with a deep-sea affinity, scientists believe goblin sharks only come near the surface at night and spend most of their lives in the dark. The species is noted for its intimidating appearance and its ability to completely unhinge its jaws when feeding.
The goblin shark’s most conspicuous physical features are the long snout (called a rostrum) and the teeth. The rostrum is covered with special organs that help these sharks locate prey in the low light of their preferred habitat by sensing the electric field created by other fishes. The teeth are long and scraggly, and the goblin shark is one of very few species of shark whose teeth are visible when the mouth is fully closed. In other words, goblin sharks cannot fit all of their teeth in their mouths.
Live goblin sharks have only rarely been observed and almost never filmed, so most of scientists’ knowledge of this species is a result of their accidental capture in fisheries targeting other species. They are believed to be active predators and to take some fishes, as well as squids and pelagic crustaceans. When hunting, they identify prey below their sensitive rostrum and extend their jaws, far from their mouths, to grasp what they find. When feeding in this manner, they look more like something out of an alien movie than a shark.
Goblin sharks mate via internal fertilization and give live birth to a small number of relatively large young. Though they give live birth, these sharks do not connect to their young through a placenta. Instead, during the gestation period, the mother likely provides her young with unfertilized eggs that they actively eat for nourishment. After they are born, young goblin sharks are ready to be active predators. The goblin shark is not fished commercially, and is only rarely captured accidentally in fisheries targeting other species. Based on a recent analysis, scientists believe the goblin shark to be a species of least concern.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.