Written by guest contributor - Yolanda Evans.

The elusive Goblin Shark is a rare species of deep-sea shark, found globally. These unique sharks have a long snout called a rostrum and protrusible jaws, hailing them their common name, Goblin Shark. The rostrum is covered with small sense organs (electroreceptors) called the ampullae of Lorenzini. This is essentially a network of jelly-filled pores found in the head of many sharks that are able to pick up changes in the electro-magnetic field around them, which can often signal the minute muscle contractions of nearby fish.

In addition to their rostrum, these sharks possess an amazing ability to protrude their jaws from their cartilaginous skull via a process called ‘slingshot feeding’. This is when the jaws are shot forward, extending 8.6-9.4% of the Goblin Shark’s total body length. This fast jaw action also creates a powerful suction force, known as a pharyngeal suction, which forces their prey deeper into their mouths. 

While many shark colours range from greys to blues to browns, this stupendous shark can be a very pale pink! However, this unusual colour doesn’t come from a pigment in their skin, but rather from the thinness of their skin! Their skin is so transparent that the oxygenated blood that flows in their capillaries (tiny blood vessels) causes what would be their grey skin, to become pink. This amazing ability might actually have been an adaptation for the shark: as they live 270m-1300 m deep, red-light wavelengths cannot be seen, making the spectacular shark near-invisible to both prey and predators! 

Their scientific name, Mitsukurina owstoni, comes from the British naturalist Alan Owston who is credited with discovering the shark, and from Kakichi Mitsuriki, the Japanese scientist who identified and described the shark. While the English common name relates to their long rostrum, the direct translation into Japanese is ‘tenguzame’, a ‘tengu’ meaning a Japanese mythological half-man-half-bird often depicted with red skin and a long nose, a more fitting comparison. 

Despite their somewhat intimidating appearance, the Goblin Shark is not an aggressive species, predating on mainly small bony fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Long, slender teeth that protrude out from their jaws, appearing almost like blades, are perfect for clutching onto their prey. Nonetheless, the greatest issue they create for humans is disruption of our internet as they are known to bite down onto undersea fibre-optic cables! 

Like many other shark species, Goblin Sharks are mainly at threat from bycatch from deep-sea longlining and deep-sea trawling. They are listed under the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Unfortunately, being relatively understudied, this may be incorrect as there is limited knowledge on the lives of these sharks. Leaving the question: what else is there to know about the truly incredible Goblin Shark?

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mitsukurina owstoni

FAMILY: Mitsukurinidae

MAXIMUM SIZE: Up to 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) in length

DIET: Feeds primarily on deep-sea fish, but also crustaceans and cephalopods

DISTRIBUTION: Goblin Sharks have a wide but patchy distribution, found in deep waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

HABITAT: Primarily found in the deep sea, typically between 200 and 1,200 meters (656 and 3,937 feet) in depth. They are occasionally seen at shallower depths, but are typically associated with steep slopes and canyons on the continental shelf and slope.


Due to their deep-sea habitat and elusive nature, they are rarely encountered and little is known about their population trends. However, they are sometimes caught as bycatch in deepwater fisheries, and there is concern over the potential impacts of deep-sea mining activities on their habitat.

Images - www.fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3254 | Wikimedia Commons