March 4, 2015
VIDEO: Rare goblin shark found off Australia
Two places that are bountiful sources of wonderfully terrifying creatures: Australia and the ocean. Combine the two, and there is seemingly no end to the array of eye-opening specimens.This time: It’s the goblin shark.
The Australian Museum recently received a specimen of one of these, only the fourth ever to be acquired by the Sydney museum, with the first two collected in the 1980s. Described as an "alien of the deep", goblins live way down--about 2900 feet (900 meters)--and are rarely caught by humans.
The sharks’ most notable feature, alongside a set of “nail-like” teeth that rival any dental terror in the shark world, is a long, protruding snout. Rather than looking like goblins, the 125 million-year-old “living fossils” actually look like ocean-dwelling versions of proboscis monkeys, platypuses, or unicorns if nature had got drunk and decided it'd had just about enough of cutesiness.
Beautiful, not hideous
However, we shouldn’t confuse being strikingly intimidating with being ugly. The Australian Museum's fish collection manager, Mark McGrouther, told Discovery that: “It's pretty impressive, it's not hideous - it's beautiful.” He added that: “They’re not encountered terribly often, and when they do come here it’s a very special day.” Here is a video of McGrouther receiving the shark and examining it in all its glory:
The goblin shark, whose scientific name is Mitsukurina owstoni, uses its distinctive long snout to pick up electric pulses from crabs, squid, and other potential prey. The snout is covered in pores, and once prey is detected it snaps at it with the fearsome jaws.
However, the teeth are not used to chew, but simply to snare food, which is then swallowed hole, unlike in many other sharks.
The “metal detector” snout
"I suspect because it has got soft, flabby musculature, it doesn't need much energy... so it will swim slowly over the bottom just using its snout like a metal detector," McGrouther told AFP.
"It will be sweeping over the bottom and when it detects a small fish, or a crab or a squid it will shoot those jaws out 'wham' and capture whatever it is. It will spear it with those sharp pointed teeth and then just wolf it down whole."
This all happens at around 1000 feet (300 meters) below the surface.
The specimen, which was caught in January, is believed to be a male and measured 1.5 meters (4ft 13in) in length.
The news follows the story in January of the “horrific” frilled shark accidentally caught by Australian fishermen. The pre-historic creature, also described as a living fossil, resembles a crazed eel but has the tail of a shark and 300 teeth in dozens of rows. Frilled sharks are seen even more rarely than goblin sharks and reside at depths of 2300 feet (700 meters).