Goblin shark, an alien in the deep sea

The goblin shark is one of the rarest species of sharks you can find in the ocean. Its discovery did not happen until 1898 mainly because it lives in deep waters.

goblin shark Mitsukurina owstoni Japan (specimen / digitally manipulated) David Shen / SeaPics.com

Its most striking feature is the shape of its head, with a long snout and jaws capable of moving out of his mouth. This feature is extremely useful in deep waters, where there is no light, as this shark is guided by the electro receptors on its head and uses its jaws before being detected to capture prey like squids or octopus. This useful and striking adaptation is perhaps what has led it to be the only species of the Mitsukurinidae family that has survived to our time.

This video shows perfectly how this curious jaw works and helps us imagine the goblin’s shark strategy to hunt its prey in zero visibility conditions.

Although the goblin shark habitat is associated with the Sea of Japan, where it was discovered, and Australia, it has also been found in Europe and could inhabit the depths off the coast of South Africa and California.

The goblin shark’s jaw thrusting inevitably reminds us of the «Alien» by Ridley Scott, and maybe the writers of this classic science fiction movie, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, were inspired by it when they wrote that thrilling story. As they recognized once, when trying to sell the script to motion picture companies, they wanted to draw the attention of the producers by saying that the story was like the movie «Jaws» by Steven Spielberg «but in space.»

Little more is known of the goblin shark due to the difficulties reaching their habitat, and the few specimens that have been collected appeared dead in deep fishnets or survived for only a few hours. This species can reach 3 meters in length and weight around 150 kilos maximum.

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