They may not be as beautiful as the shimmering, iridescent blue shark or as mighty as the magnificent great white, but goblin sharks are truly awesome creatures, and the Australian Museum is understandably very excited to have the opportunity to showcase such a rare specimen.
Australian Museum / AFP
This latest addition to the ichthyology collection was accidentally caught back in January by fishermen working in Green Cape, off the New South Wales coast, at a depth of around 200 meters (656 feet), AFP reports. It was then delivered to the Merimbula Aquarium where it remained in excellent condition until being donated to the museum in Sydney, according to ABC News.
“It’s pretty impressive, it’s not hideous it’s beautiful,” said the museum’s fish collection manager Mark McGrouther. “They are not caught terribly often. They are not encountered terribly often at all.” In fact, only four goblin sharks have ever been obtained by the museum since the first two arrived back in the ‘80s, according to AFP, and McGrouthe has only seen three throughout his entire fishy career.
The goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, was first described over one hundred years ago, but so few specimens have been caught that we still know relatively little about these animals, which are easily one of the rarest shark species. Often referred to as “living fossils,” M. owstoni is actually the only surviving representative of the Mitsukurinidae family, which dates back some 125 million years.
Goblin sharks are bottom-dwellers that are rarely seen at the surface or in shallow coastal waters, which is probably why so few have been obtained. They tend to live at depths of between 300 (980 ft) and 900 meters (2,950 ft), although they have been found as deep as 1,300 meters (4,260 ft) and as shallow as 95 meters (311 ft).
Perhaps the most interesting features of these animals are their elongated snouts and ragged jaws. Along their snout are a series of pores that contain a sense system known as ampullae of Lorenzini, which detects weak electrical impulses in the water, for example from the heartbeats of prey. When they approach their victim, their jaws rapidly catapult forward and they use their sharp, nail-like teeth to spear prey, rather than cut them like many other shark species.