Home|Search|Identify|Taxonomic tree|Quiz|About this site|Feedback
Developed by ETI BioInformatics
Characteristics, distribution and ecology
Taxonomische classification
Synonyms and common names
Literature references
Images, audio and video
Links to other Web sites

Author: Jordan, 1898

Field Marks:
This unmistakable shark has a flat, bladelike, elongated snout, tiny eyes without nictitating eyelids, soft, flabby body, slender, very long-cusped teeth in long, protrusible jaws, two spineless dorsals and an anal fin, and a long caudal fin without a ventral lobe. Preserved specimens are brownish, but newly caught specimens are pinkish-white when still alive (see Uyeno, Nakamura and Mikami (1976) for spectacular colour photographs of living individuals).

Diagnostic Features:
Trunk compressed and moderately slender, very soft and flabby. Head as long as trunk or slightly shorter; snout greatly elongated, bladelike and flattened; eyes very small; mouth large, ventral on head; gill openings short, not extending onto dorsal surface of head, all anterior to pectoral fin bases; no gillrakers on internal gill slits; teeth large, anteriors and laterals very narrow and awl-like, less than 60 rows in either jaw; three rows of large anterior teeth on each side of upper and lower jaws, the uppers separated from the upper lateral teeth by a gap without intermediate teeth. Dorsal fins small, low, and rounded, or semi-angular, equal sized and smaller than the large, rounded anal fin; second dorsal and anal fins with broad, nonpivoting bases; pectoral fins small and broad, much shorter than head in adults; pelvic fins large, larger than dorsal fins; caudal fin not lunate, upper lobe long but half length of rest of shark or less, lower lobe not developed, no precaudal pits, caudal peduncle compressed and without keels.

Geographical Distribution:
Western Atlantic: French Guiana. Eastern Atlantic: France (Bay of Biscay), Madeira, Portugal; Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Western Indian Ocean: Off South Africa. Western Pacific: Japan, Australia (South Australia, New South Wales).

Habitat and Biology:
A poorly known, uncommon, bottom dwelling shark that inhabits the outer continental shelves and upper slopes down to at least 550 m, but rarely occurs in shallow water close inshore. Almost nothing is known of the biology of this bizarre shark. The long caudal fin, without a ventral lobe, soft, flabby body, and small, soft paired and unpaired fins, suggest that the goblin shark is a relatively inactive, slow swimming species with a density close to seawater. Its remarkable bladelike snout is superficially similar to those of the chondrostean paddlefishes(Polyodontidae), and like these fishes may use it as a forward-projecting prey detector. Its slender, pick-like anterior and lateral teeth suggests small, soft-bodied prey including fishes, shrimps and squids; as in Eugomphodus taurus, its posterior teeth are modified for crushing. The jaws of the goblin shark are highly specialized for rapid projection from the head as in some mesopelagic teleosts, and no doubt function to snap up small animals. It is harmless to people.

Maximum total length about 335 cm; males mature at 264 to 322 cm.

Interest to Fisheries:
Minimal, taken as byeatch of deepwater trawl fisheries and occasionally taken with deepwater longlines, deep-set gillnets, and possibly purse seines. Utilized dried salted.

Type material:
Holotype: Zoological Museum, University of Tokyo. Type Locality: Near Yokohama, Japan in deep water.

Goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)