The goblin shark, also known by other names, is a deep-sea fish, one of the most poorly studied and ancient sharks. Some verified information about her diet, behavior in her usual environment, reproduction. But something about this amazing monster of the depths can still be told – and this is a very unusual fish!
Origin of the species and description
Of the relic family of Scapanorhynchus sharks, this species is believed to be the only survivor. It is believed – because because of their habitat deep in the water column and sharks, goblins are very rare for researchers, and therefore no one knows if the ocean depths contain another species belonging to this family, or even several.
The goblin shark was first caught in 1898. Due to the unusual nature of the fish, its scientific description was not made immediately, but only after a detailed study, which took about a year, did D.S. Jordan. The first fish caught was still young, only a meter long, as a result, at first, scientists had the wrong idea about the size of the species.
Video: Goblin Shark
She was classified as Mitsukurina owstoni in honor of Alan Ouston and Professor Kakechi Mitsukuri – the former caught her and the latter studied her. The researchers immediately noticed the resemblance to the Mesozoic shark Scapanorynchus, and for some time believed that this was it.
Then differences were established, but as one of the unofficial names, “scapanorhynchus” was fixed. The species are indeed related, and since the real Scapanorhynchus did not survive, it is quite justified to call its closest surviving relative so.
The goblin shark really belongs to the relict species: it has existed for almost 50 million years, carries many relict hell and therefore very interesting to study. The most ancient representatives of the Scapanorhynchus family lived in the earth’s oceans about 125 million years ago.
Appearance and features
The name itself evokes associations – goblins usually do not differ in beauty. The goblin shark looks scarier than most of them: it was actually nicknamed that because of its unusual and even rather scary appearance – distorted and unusual shapes for people are generally characteristic of many inhabitants of the depths living under conditions of strong pressure of the water column.
The jaws are elongated and can be pushed forward very far, and on the muzzle there is a long outgrowth resembling a beak. In addition, the skin of this shark is almost transparent and blood vessels are visible through it – this gives it a blood-pink color, which quickly changes to brown after death.
The vessels are located almost at the very skin, they are clearly visible, including because of this. Such anatomy not only gives the fish an unpleasant and even frightening appearance, but also allows skin breathing. The ventral and anal fins are strongly developed and larger than the dorsal, which makes it possible to maneuver better at depth, but the goblin shark is unable to develop high speed.
The body is rounded, in the form of a spindle, which increases maneuverability. Scapanorhynchus is highly elongated and flattened, and therefore, even with a considerable length, it does not have such a large weight by the standards of sharks: it grows up to 2.5-3.5 meters, and its weight is 120-170 kilograms. It has long and sharp front teeth, and the back teeth are designed to gnaw prey and crush shells.
It has a highly developed liver: it weighs a quarter of the entire body weight of the fish. Nutrients are stored in this organ, which helps the goblin shark to live for a long time without food: even two or three weeks of hunger will not deprive it of all its strength. Another important function of the liver is to replace the swim bladder.
Interesting fact: The eyes of the goblin shark glow green in the dark, like many other inhabitants of deep waters, because it is very dark there. But it still relies far less on sight than on other senses.
Where does the goblin shark live?
Reliably the habitat is unknown, one can only draw conclusions regarding the areas where the Scapanorhynchus were caught.
Habitats of the goblin shark:
- China Sea;
- area of the Pacific Ocean east of the coast of Japan;
- Tasman Sea;
- Great Australian Bight;
- waters south of South Africa;
- Gulf of Guinea;
- Caribbean Sea;
- Bay of Biscay;
- Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal.
For all the time, less than fifty individuals were caught, and on the basis of such a sample, it is impossible to draw firm conclusions about the boundaries of the range.
Japan is the leader in the number of goblin sharks caught – it was in the seas washing it that most of them were found. This, however, is probably due primarily to the fact that the Japanese have well-established deep-sea fishing, and does not mean that it is in these waters that most of the Scapanorhynchus live.
Moreover: it is the seas and bays that are listed, while a much larger number of goblin sharks probably live in the open ocean, but deep-sea fishing in them is carried out in much smaller volumes. In general, the waters of all oceans are suitable for their habitat – the only exception can be the Arctic Ocean, however, the researchers have no confidence about this.
The first individual was also caught near the Japanese coast, in this country they gave the species the name goblin shark – although it has not been used in Russian for a long time. They preferred to call her a brownie – this folklore creation was much more known to Soviet people.
Due to the warming of the ocean waters that has been going on for a long time, the scapanorhynchus are gradually changing their area of u200bu200bhousing, moving up. But the depths are still significant: this shark prefers to have at least 200-250 meters of water above its head. Sometimes it swims much deeper – up to 1500 meters.
What does a goblin shark eat?
Reliably the diet is not found out, because the contents of the stomach were not preserved in the caught fish: it was emptied due to the pressure drop during the ascent. Therefore, it remains only to speculate about what organisms they feed on.
The basis for the conclusions was, among other factors, the structure of the jaws and dental apparatus of this fish – as the researchers suggest based on the results of their study, scapanorhynchus can feed on deep-sea organisms of various sizes – from plankton to large fish. The diet also includes cephalopods.
Most likely, the goblin shark eats:
- small invertebrates;
To catch and hold prey, it uses its front teeth, and gnaws it with its back teeth. The jaws are well developed, when hunting, it pushes them far forward, grabs and holds the prey, and at the same time also draws water into the mouth strongly. the inhabitants of the sea – she simply catches up with them and sucks them in if they are small in size, and holds the larger ones with her teeth.
If you can’t get enough in this way, you have to look for carrion – the goblin shark’s digestive system is adapted to process it. In addition, the reserves of substances in the liver allow it to live for a long time without food at all, if the search for prey was unsuccessful.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Badly studied precisely because for lifestyle: it lives in deep water, and it is difficult to explore this area. Therefore, scientists draw the main conclusions from the few samples that were caught. After studying them, it was concluded that despite its unusual appearance, this is a real shark, not a stingray – there were such assumptions before.
Scientists are also confident in the relict nature of this species – although fossil goblin sharks have not been found, they have a lifestyle very similar to that of some species of ancient sharks. This is also indicated by their structure, in many respects similar to long-extinct creatures.
Although this is not known for certain, it is believed that they are loners – at least there is no indication that they form aggregations and catch them one by one. A live goblin shark could not be studied even in artificial conditions – the only surviving individual after the capture died a week later, without allowing much information to be collected.
Interesting fact: Actually an unofficial name was given not at all in honor of goblins, but tengu – creatures from Japanese mythology. Their main distinguishing feature is a very long nose, so Japanese fishermen immediately came up with an analogy. Since there were no tengu in Western mythology, they were renamed goblins, and in the USSR in the same way – brownies.
Social structure and reproduction
They are considered solitary predators by analogy with similar species. Pisces come together exclusively during the mating season, the details and duration of which have not yet been studied. It comes every few years. The rest of the time is spent hunting other creatures of the deep, most likely other members of their own species as well.
Regarding reproduction, scientists can also only speculate, since a pregnant female has never been caught – however, this can be done with a high degree of certainty based on the study of other sharks, including deep-sea ones. Probably, Scapanorhynchus are ovoviviparous, embryos develop directly in the mother’s body.
They appear already completely ready for independent life – and it immediately begins. Mom does not take care of the fry, does not teach or feed them, but immediately leaves, so they have to hunt and hide from predators themselves – fortunately, there are not so many of them as closer to the surface.
Interesting fact: A long, protruding outgrowth, which gives half the “charm” to the goblin shark, acts as an electrolocator. It contains Lorenzini bubbles that pick up even very weak electrical signals and allow you to detect prey in the dark – including motionless.
Natural goblin shark enemies
At the depths at which this shark lives, it has practically no serious enemies – say this is probably hindered by little study, but the habitat itself, unlike the upper layers of water, is not suitable for large predatory creatures, and scapanorhynchus is one of the most powerful and dangerous inhabitants of the water column.
As a result, he can feel confident and almost nothing to fear. Conflicts with other sharks are possible when the scapanornh rises into layers of water that are high for him, and they, on the contrary, descend. But these are clearly not very common occurrences – at least there are no bite marks from larger sharks on known specimens of goblin sharks.
Skirmishes with other deep-sea sharks can also occur, because there are many such species, but Scapanorhynchus is one of the largest and most dangerous among them, so fights with members of their own species are the main threat. It is not known for certain that they occur, but they are characteristic of almost all sharks.
Unlike adults, there are much more threats for young ones – for example, other deep-sea predator sharks. However, they live a quieter life than normal shark fry, since the animals in deep water are mostly smaller in size, and they quickly grow up enough to not be afraid of almost anyone.
Population and view status
It is difficult to estimate the population of goblin sharks only on the basis of caught specimens – there are only 45 of them in more than a century since the discovery, but this does not mean that the species is not widespread. However, researchers still believe that goblin sharks are indeed relatively few.
But not enough to recognize them as an endangered species – a few individuals caught in different parts of the world, so there are two options: the first – The area of distribution of the Scapanorhynchus is very wide, which means that even with a low density on the planet, there are not so few of them.
The second is that there are at least a dozen and a half isolated populations, in which case the survival of goblin sharks is also not in danger. Based on this, as well as the fact that there is no industrial production of this species, it is included in the number of species for which there are no threats (Least Concern – LC).
Note that the jaw of a goblin shark is considered very valuable , collectors are also interested in her large teeth. But still, the interest is not so great as to engage in deep-sea fishing specifically for the sake of it – the Scapanorhynchus protects its very way of life from poaching.
But it is known that a significantly larger number of these fish were unofficially sold to private hands than horrible to scientists – only near Taiwan in a short time managed to catch about a hundred. But such cases occur spontaneously, fishing is not carried out.
The goblin shark is of great value to scientists – it is an ancient fish, the study of which can shed light on the evolutionary process and get a more complete picture of many organisms that lived on our planet a long time ago. It is also interesting as one of the largest and most developed predators, capable of living at a depth of more than 1,000 meters – in the dark and under high pressure.