Weird fish of the week: Goblin shark

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The amazing Goblin shark certainly lives up to the weird fish title. Just take a look at the video...

Sharks have been cruising the oceans for over 420 million years, which is ample time for evolution to throw up all manner of weirdness. The Goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, is a case in point.

 These poor fish have gained a reputation for ugliness which is not helped by the majority of images of them being taken post mortem with their impressive mouths extended.

This a little like judging a beauty contest, but only when the contestants are yawning... and dead.

In life the Goblin shark is a far more attractive creature. Their body shape is typical of what most of us would consider 'shark like', but with some marked differences.

The most obvious one is their rostrum (nose), which is greatly enlarged and flattened into a paddle shape. This is where they get their common name from as Japanese fishermen called them 'tenguzame' after 'tengu', a mythical goblin like creature from folklore with a long nose.

This impressive proboscis is covered in sensory pores known as 'the ampullae of Lorenzini' with which the shark can detect the electrical fields of prey both in the dark, and hidden in the seabed. This is where its most striking, but largely hidden adaptation comes into play.

The shark has a set of truly bizarre jaws which with the aid of special ligaments can project out in front of their resting position, rather like those on the creature in the film Alien.

These protractible jaws are filled with long slender teeth and can shoot out to snatch up any prey detected. Watch the video below to see those amazing jaws in action.

Unique amongst sharks, they have a generally pink colouration with just the oddly rounded fins carrying a blue-ish tint but this colouration fades rapidly once the shark is dead, which unfortunately is the condition most individuals are seen in.

Despite being discovered well over 100 years ago very few specimens have been recorded and little is known about their lives.

No pregnant female Goblin shark has ever been caught, but it is likely they are ovoviviparous like other members of the order Lamniformes.

They are a deep water species, typically found at depths of between 250 and 1000m near the sea bed, but young specimens have occasionally been seen in shallow water.

Stomach contents show a diet made up of squid, pelagic octopus, fish and crustaceans.

The largest specimen caught so far was a male measuring 3.8m/12ft but females may get even bigger.

They are thought to be resident in most of the world's oceans.

Why not check out some of our other Weird fish of the week features? 

Mega mouth shark

Flying gurnard

Pinecone fish

Sea lamprey

Slender snipe eel

Tripod fish

Lumpsucker

Ocean sunfish

Two-headed arowana

Stargazers

Giant oarfish

Kroyer's deep sea anglerfish

Halimeda ghost pipefish