An Australian father-son fishing crew trawling southeast of Green Cape off the coast of Victoria caught an extremely rare goblin shark, which is also called a “vampire shark” because it lives in the dark, has sharp teeth and is just plain terrifying to look at.
The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) is the only remaining member of the 125-million-year-old Mitsukurinidae family of sharks, which makes it a living dinosaur. You can figure out how it got the “goblin” name just by looking at it. The extremely long and flat snout sits above a set of unusually long jaws filled with sharp nail-like teeth. The fearsome snout and jaws make up for the goblin shark’s less-frightening pink skin, small grey fins and flabby body. This out-of-shape shark can still reach over 13 feet in length when mature.
It picked up the name “vampire shark” because it generally lives in deep waters (1200 meters) on the light-less ocean floor. To find food, its snout is covered with electroreceptors called ampullae of Lorenzini that detect electrical fields given off by fish, crustaceans and cephalopods. This may explain why their teeth are often found embedded in underwater electrical cables.
Lochlainn and Mike Kelly caught the goblin shark while trolling at a depth pf 609 meters. They turned it over to the Merimbula Wharf Aquarium where they were told the 1.2 meter shark was only 2-to-3 years old. The shark will now be sent to the Australian Museum in Sydney.
While rarely seen or caught, goblin sharks can be found throughout the three major oceans. Because they live at such great depths, they don’t survive in captivity. Fortunately for them, they taste bad and are no danger to humans. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has goblin sharks listed as “Least Concern” which means they are under evaluation but not yet threatened.
For the sake of this truly mysterious and unusual shark, let’s keep it that way.