21 Terrifying Facts About The Goblin Shark

If you think that Jaws is the scariest shark in the ocean, then you definitely haven’t met this one yet.

This monster of the deep-sea is the perfect nightmare material, which simply means you’d rather not come across one of these.

In this post, you’ll get to discover the ultimate list of facts about the Goblin Shark, a creature featured in Animal Stratosphere’s list of creepiest animals in the ocean.

1. Its common name comes from a Japanese demon

The goblin shark has a vast range but is most commonly found in the seas surrounding Japan. It’s also here that this type of shark was discovered in the late 19th century.

Japanese fishermen accidentally caught this monster, and because they were shocked by its terrifying appearance, they started calling it “tengu zame.” This refers to a demon in Japanese folklore. Tengu is the demon, and “zame” means “shark.”

Goblin shark is an English translation of the name that the Japanese fishermen gave to it, tengu zame.

The Japanese demon referring to the name of the goblin shark
The Japanese demon referring to the name of the goblin shark / Pixabay

2. Its scientific name has a different origin

The scientific name of the goblin shark is “Mitsukurina Owstoni,” a name that refers both to the person who acquired the first specimen and the zoologist who expanded this newly discovered species for the first time as well.

The first goblin shark, caught by Japanese fishermen, was acquired by Alan Owston (1853-1915), a UK-born collector of Asian wildlife.

Owston in turn, realizing this was a newly discovered species of shark, gave it to Professor Kakichi Mitsukuri at the University of Tokyo, who first examined it.

3. Who gave the goblin shark its scientific name?

The first time that the newly discovered goblin shark was officially described, was in an 1898 issue of “Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences” by American ichthyologist David Starr Jordan.

Professor Mitsukuri had brought it to Jordan, and in honor of the two men who “discovered” it, he named it after them in his report.

david starr jordan goblin shark
David Starr Jordan, the first person to write about the goblin shark / Wiki Commons

4. The first caught fish wasn’t fully grown

The first goblin shark was accidentally caught in Sagami Bay, near Yokohama in Japan in the late 19th century.

What’s remarkable is that this fish was an immature male goblin shark that was just 107 centimeters (42 in) long.

5. Jordan recognized it as a new species

David Starr Jordan, the American fish scientist, wrote in his report that this fish wasn’t just new species, but much more.

He also recognized it as a new genus and even a new family of sharks. This means that there aren’t any other extant shark species that belong to the family of goblin sharks, which is the same as with the Megamouth shark.

6. Some scientists wanted to reclassify the goblin shark

After Jordan published his report and findings regarding the goblin shark, other scientists tried to connect it to other species.

Most notably is the resemblance to another prehistoric and extinct type of shark, the “Scapanorhynchus.” Some scientists even want the “Mitsukurina owstoni” to be reclassified as the “Scapanorhynchus owstoni.”

Most shark specialists, however, based on research on fossils, agree that the differences are big enough for the goblin shark to be placed in its own genus.

goblin shark species
Several specimens were described erroneously as distinct species / Wiki Commons

7. How big are goblin sharks?

Very little is actually known about these animals. One of those interesting facts about the goblin shark is that we don’t even know how big they are at birth.

The smallest goblin shark ever seen was the one that got caught back in the late 19th century, a young male that measured 107 centimeters (42 in).

We do know that adults are much bigger and measure on average between 3 and 4 meters (9.8 – 13.1 ft). One female discovered in the Gulf of Mexico measured a whopping 5.4 – 6.17 meters (using regression analysis, which means these animals can grow much bigger as well.

8. They can weigh a lot as well

As expected from a shark that is about double the size of the average adult human being, they also weigh a lot.

The heaviest goblin shark ever found weighed about 210 kilos (460 lbs). The length of this one is estimated to have been about 3.8 meters.

Goblin sharks can grow really big / Source

9. Why do they have such a weird-looking snout?

The truth is that the exact reason they have such a peculiar snout is unknown. The most common explanation is that it evolved to be able to reach into cavities to find prey.

But then again, it’s not sharp enough to cause any damage if it would be used for this purpose. So another theory is that it’s used to detect electric signals given out by other fish for them to detect prey this way.

Either way, we definitely don’t want to come across a goblin shark, ever.

facts about the goblin shark
The weird snout of the goblin shark / Source

10. All sharks have this amazing feature

Sharks seem to possess a fascinating feature that allows them to detect small electro signals that are sent out by all living creatures.

These small holes found on the heads and nose of the goblins shark (and any other shark) are called the ampullae of Lorenzini, named after the Italian scientist Stefano Lorenzini who was the first one to describe it back in 1678.

And yes, this does mean that goblin sharks would be able to sense that we are around as well!

Ampullae of Lorenzini on tiger shark / Albert Kok / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

11. Goblin sharks can extend their jaws to grab food

One of the most terrifying features of the goblin shark is its ability to thrust its jaws forward to grab its prey.

This is referred to asslingshot feeding” and allows them to throw their jaws around nearly 10% the distance of their entire body.

To make it even more amazing, they can catapult their jaws at a speed of about 3.1 meters per second!

The prey doesn’t stand a chance when they move in the vicinity of this monster of the deep sea. Just check the video of how they use this technique to grab food below:

12. They can be found all over the world

The goblin shark has been caught in all of the world’s major oceans, which means its range is immensely vast.

It has been found from the northern Gulf of Mexico, Suriname, French Guiana, and southern Brazil in the west, and France, Portugal, Madeira, and Senegal in the east.

In the Indo-Pacific and Oceania, it has been found off the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand.

13. Shrimpers got the scare of a lifetime

If a shrimper lowers his net in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Key West in Florida, he expects to find shrimp.

To their surprise, they hoisted a terrifying monster along with their daily catch. While taking a look at the goblin shark’s teeth, they wisely decided to quickly release it back to where it came from.

That’ll be a day they won’t forget any time soon!

14. They are very slow

The goblin shark isn’t by any means a fast swimmer, let alone a ferocious predator that chases its prey around the ocean floor.

They compensate for their slowness with their extendable jaws, which are their actual hunting tool and which they can extend at a speed of 3.1 meters per second to catch their prey.

Researchers believe they have developed this feature to compensate for both their slow swimming ability and the scarceness of food near the ocean floor.

15. You don’t need to worry about them too much

Are you starting to develop a mild ocean phobia at the moment?

Then we have some good news, because the chances of ever coming across one of these monsters while swimming in the oceans are extremely slim, pretty much non-existent in fact.

Goblin sharks are mostly found over the upper continental slope at depths of 270–960 m (890–3,150 ft). They even have been caught at debts of 1,300 meters (4,300 ft).

The adult ones prefer to go deeper and deeper, and only immature ones can be found in waters as shallows as 40 meters (130 ft).

facts about the goblin shark
Goblin shark in museum / Pengo / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en

16. We don’t know anything about how they reproduce

These mysterious creatures still have a lot of secrets to unveil. One of those is how they actually reproduce.

No pregnant female has ever been caught, so we have no idea about the gestation period, the number of pups, the pupping season, or the nursery grounds.

17. Once we caught a fish alive

On a cold morning on January 25, 2007, a couple of staff members of the Tokyo Sea Life Park set out on an adventure. They had a goal of catching a goblin shark.

Remarkably, they caught one in the shallow waters of Tokyo Bay at a depth of about 160 meters, and it was about 1.3 meters long (which means it was an immature one).

Even though they put it in a deepsea tank resembling the living conditions it’s used to, it died just 2 days later on January 27.

Catching a goblin shark and keeping it alive long enough to study its behavior seems to be an impossible task.

18. They have a weird-looking body

In the deep ocean, you can barely see a thing. So mother nature didn’t care too much for giving this particular creature a beautiful appearance.

Their skin is flabby and they have a pinkish, bubblegum-like color due to the blood vessels being visible just below it.

Remarkably, the color changes as they age and becomes pinker and pinker. Young goblin sharks are pretty much completely white.

goblin shark in Wien museum
Goblin shark in museum / Pengo / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/deed.en

19. Their color changes even more after death

Instead of pink, post-mortem, goblin sharks are uniformly brown or grey. So if you ever see a picture of a brown goblin shark, you can be assured it’s a preserved dead one.

20. Goblin sharks aren’t endangered

The fact that they live in such deep water and have such a vast range, they aren’t classified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) but as of “Least Concern.”

Since June 2018, however, the New Zealand Department of Conservation has classified the goblin shark as “At Risk – Naturally Uncommon.”

The reason is mostly that there is so little data about goblin sharks available in the region.

21. The goblin shark inspired the movie makers

And what other types of movie than a movie about aliens could the goblin shark be an inspiration for?

The goblin shark has been the model to create the monster called the “Neomorph” in the movie “Alien: Covenant.” The Neomorph has been described as Ridley Scott’s outer space answer to the goblin shark.

This just shows how terrifying the goblin shark really is!

goblin shark facts
The goblin shark is a monster of the sea and was used for inspiration in Alien: Covenant / Source

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