A fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico got more than he bargained for when hauling in a shrimp net last month: a shark so rare that only a few have ever been spotted and a face so hideous only a mother could love it. The goblin shark, sometimes called a living fossil because it is the last surviving species of the Mitsukurinidae family, lives deep under water and has a long, ultra-sensitive snout hiding a mouth full of knife-like teeth. No one has seen one for at least 10 years, so it’s no wonder that when the fishermen discovered the prehistoric-looking beast in their net, they scratched their heads, snapped a picture and then threw the thing back into the deep.
The captain on the boat, Carl Moore, took a picture to show his three-year old grandson before the men returned the amazing 18-foot long shark back to the ocean; though they caught it a month ago, he only reported the catch to NOAA on Friday. Researchers were disappointed to learn that the shark was back in the sea because so little is known about the unattractive beast that no one knows how big they can get or how long they live.
Scientists were excited to see in the photo the presence of giant isopods mixed into the shrimp catch, which indicates that the goblin shark had possibly been attracted to an ecosystem that had developed around a dead whale. The shark’s nose has electrical sensors that helps it locate prey, which includes whales, other sharks, shrimp, rays and crabs, and its characteristic red face probably helps it blend in with its surroundings in the deep ocean. When Carl Moore’s grandson saw the photo his grandpa had taken, he exclaimed, “wow, papa!” We think that sums it up nicely.