Goblin Sharks

The Goblin Shark is weird. We might as well get that out of the way now.

For starts, it looks like this:

“I should not be.”

That pasty, off-white eel/shark abomination has been caught in all three major oceans, but is most frequently pulled up off the coast of Japan, because all deep-sea horror creatures are drawn to Japan like eldritch aquatic moths to a particularly monster-prone lightbulb.

It generally lives about a mile below the surface, where there has never been any light, but it can also be found beneath the beds of other sharks, waiting to jump out and scare them. A goblin shark tooth has even been found lodged in a deep-sea cable at a depth of 1,370m (4,490ft), indicating that they may range all the way down to the watery tomb of the Elder Gods, and also that they want to destroy our tasty, tasty cables.

And therefore lure down our tasty, tasty cable repairmen.

It’s usually between 3m and 4m long (or “double the size of a grown human”), but don’t worry, its long, top-heavy tail fin and flabby body indicate that it’s pretty sluggish and slow moving (except for its jaws, which can extend out of its face really, really fast).

The goblin shark’s hunting strategy (which, amazingly, does not involve making scary faces) makes use of that ridiculous nose as a sort of metal detector, since the nose is absolutely packed with sensors which can detect the electric currents of a prey animal’s nervous system. Like, you know, the heartbeat.

“Let’s play hide and seek!”

These electrical sensors are called ampullae of Lorenzini, and most sharks have them, but a few species have adapted to make exceptional use of them. The other sharks to do this are hammerheads, which now look far more cuddly than they did before I started researching their deep-sea surfboard-nosed cousin.

The weird heads are used the same way – like sweeping metal detectors, swung from left to right to scan for living things. The hammerhead is scanning for fish and crabs buried in the mud – the goblin shark is scanning for things it can’t see in the black abyss it calls home. Even animals buried in the sand or concealed by ink clouds can be caught with the use of that inescapable snout.

Once the (presumably horrified) prey is detected, the real horror show can begin: the goblin shark’s jaws extend out from its head like some sort of grabber arm designed by H.R Giger, and snatch the victim in hundreds of thin, nail-like teeth. At the same time, the shark’s throat and gills expand outwards, opening a cavernous black hole in the universe and creating a vacuum that sucks the prey in, making escape almost impossible.

This animal disproves the existence of a loving God a thousand times over.

Due to the depths it lives at, its diet of deep-sea fish and its thin, needle-like teeth, it is believed to pose no threat to humans. However, since they are double your size and there is most definitely going to be one lurking in your dreams tonight, I’m sure that’s going to be small comfort to you now.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.


(credit for image 1 – Dianne Bray / Museum Victoria: image 2 – http://www.sharksider.com: image 3 – http://www.greengoblin.com: image 4 – “Alien Sharks”, Discovery Channel)