Goblin Shark: Facts About Species, Including How They Attack

May 7, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

The goblin shark has become a curiosity recently after commercial shrimpers caught one of the rare sharks off the FLorida Keys in mid-April.

Carl Moore, one of the shrimpers, said that  he was trawling for royal red shrimp south of the Marquesas Keys April 19 when he netted the 15-foot goblin shark.

He told The Key West Citizen that he noticed the shark’s distinctive head when it spilled onto the deck along with hundreds of pounds of red shrimp. 

“I wasn’t sure if it was a protected species and I didn’t want to get fined,” Moore said. “Those types of fines can be expensive. That’s my ocean and I try to protect it. He belonged out there.”

John Carlson, shark expert and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Fisheries Service research biologist, said that encounters with the goblin shark are rare in waters off the United States–the last reported case was in 2000.

Nearly 80 percent of encounters worldwide are off Japan.

Epoch Times Photo

World distribution map for the goblin shark sightings. (Florida Museum of Natural History)

goblin shark

Goblin shark. (FAO)

The species lives in deep water and has a long, prominent snout covered with special sensing organs that help it to sense electric fields, according to the Smithsonian National Museum of History. It’s typically been observed living in water between 885 feet and 3,149 feet, but has been found in waters up to 4,265 feet, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Its long jaw has long, slender teeth–26 on the upper jaw and 24 on the lower jaw–while its pectoral fins are short and broad and the two dorsal fins are small, rounded, and equal in size. The sharks can grow up to 12.6 feet in length.

Scientists believe that the goblin shark mostly attacks prey by waiting in strategic places and then lunging or closing its outstretched jaw as the prey passes by. The snout can sense the electric signals that other fish give off.

Because of the rare sightings–and the fact that there has been no direct study of the species in the wild–there is a lot that isn’t known about the species, including their lifespans and mating habits.

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