If you came across a Goblin Shark you would be forgiven for thinking it was a weird alien species that had come from another planet. The rarely seen fish’s jaw juts forward when it opens it mouth, revealing dozens of long, needle-like teeth.
Australian Museum’s fish collection manager Mark McGrouther, who said the teeth look like “little daggers,” was delighted to receive the unusual specimen, which fishermen had brought in. Unfortunately, the animal did not manage to survive, but will still form part of the Museum’s display.
What makes the very rarely seen Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) so bizarre is its unusual “alien-like” jaw mechanism. Two giant ligaments are stretched when the jaws close. When the mouth opens the tension on the ligaments is released and the jaws thrust forward, a bit like the creature in the movie Alien with Sigourney Weaver.
Mr. McGrouther shows the Goblin Shark at the Australian Museum.
Another strange-looking feature is its long-flattened snout, which is covered in pores on its lower side. According to the Museum “These are the openings to the ‘ampullae of Lorenzini’, a sensory system that allows the electroreception of prey.”
The Goblin Shark, which can reach 3 to 4 metres (10 to 13 feet) in length when fully grown, feeds on octopuses, crabs, shrimps, squid and fishes. Unfortunately, this one’s gut was empty, so we will never know what its last meal was, Mr. McGrouther said.
The specimen the fishermen had brought in was a juvenile male, 1.26 metres long (5 feet 3 inches). It was caught off Eden in water several hundred metres deep.
The Australian Museum’s Ichthyology Collection now has four Goblin Shark specimens, all of them collected in Australian waters. Two of them are juveniles, while the other two are 3.6 and 3.8 metres long.
The head of a Goblin Shark with jaws extended. (Image: Wikipedia)
The Museum wrote on its website:
“We retain only the head and various organs of these larger fish because it’s just not feasible for the Museum to store thumping great fish of this size. Interestingly, all four specimens are males caught off the coast of New South Wales between Sydney and Eden.”
“Special thanks to Merimbula Aquarium aquarist Michael McMaster who kindly offered the fish to the Australian Museum and to Libby Hepburn who drove it to Sydney.”
The goblin shark has been caught in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Video – Goblin Shark