What is a goblin shark? © Alamy

What is a goblin shark?

The stuff of nightmares… an aquatic ninja with a pair of extendable jaws and nail-like teeth which sneaks up on its prey by sensing their electrocurrents. Lucky you’re not a fish.

Forget the great white shark from Jaws or the megalodon from The Meg: there’s a new superstar shark in town, and it’ll give you more nightmares than both of them combined. Meet the goblin shark.


This secretive, four-metre-long fish was first found off the eastern coast of Japan, where it was described in 1898. With its unusually long snout and fleshy skin tone, the shark was given the name tenguzame – a reference to a mythical Japanese monster with a long face, pink skin and demonic jaws, which led to the Western translation, ‘goblin shark’.

In recent years, rare video footage has shown just how incredible its jaws are. First, the goblin shark uses electroreceptors on its long nose to detect the electrical fields of fish. Then, when prey is located, it uses the natural buoyancy provided by its large, oil-rich liver to float silently towards it. When the unwary fish gets within range – SMASH! – a pair of extendable jaws filled with nail-like teeth lunge out from its face.

In every sense, the goblin shark is a creature ripe for Hollywood to exploit. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t follow in the path of many of its shark cousins and become exploited by fishing fleets, too.

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