Mitsukurina owstoni

Goblin sharks are poorly understood as there has been few documented sightings and captures. What has been confirmed is that they are a deep sea elasmobranch. Many regard Mitsukurina owstoni as a “living fossil” due to it being the only remaining species representing the family Mitsukurinidae, a lineage that has been present since the Cretaceous Period some 125 million years ago.

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Fig. 4. Mitsukurina owstoni specimen, currently being displayed at Victoria Museum, Australia. (Image free to use & share).

Goblin sharks got their name from their bizarre if not sinister complexion.  A peculiar, blade-like snout overhangs a protruding  jaw  full of fang-like teeth. The amazing feature of this creatures jaw  enables it to extend its mouth to an alarming length which is used to quickly snap up small prey (Uyeno et al, 1976). The teeth still use the method of rotating new teeth into place when one is damaged or lost as with other sharks. The shark is often depicted in art and photographs with its jaw extended, but in life this only occurs when it is feeding. The shark is somewhat pinkish in colour with the body being seemingly slender. The body is characteristic of a shark with features most similar to a thresher shark such as its asymmetric caudal fin. The average size of this species was originally thought to be around 3.1 metres however in 2000, the capture of an enormous female with an estimated length of 5.4-6.2 metres showed that goblin sharks can actually grow much larger than previously suspected (Rincon et al, 2012). The average weight of the shark is currently undecided as there is not enough data to generate a confirmation although the maximum weight on record is 210 kilo grams for a 3.8 metre long goblin shark (Yano et al, 2007).

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Fig. 5. Mitsukurina owstoni size compared to a scuba diver. (image free to use & share)

The grizzly features and somewhat undeniable alien features have caused the shark to be a star in  a few Hollywood movies with its sinister grin being present in many children’s and adult’s nightmares.

 

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