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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Japan Is Home To Ugliest Shark

For those of you who aren't shark lovers, you might be wondering at the sheer stupidity of my headline, believing all sharks to be ugly.

And while I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion even if it's wrong, I just want to state that like everything in this world, not all things are created equal.

Take for example, that ugly mo-fo shark pictured above. That is not an artist's conceptual drawing of what a shark would look like if it had a human face. Nope. That is the very real Goblin Shark. A shark that makes its home off the islands of Japan,

Known scientifically as Mitsukurina owstoni, this deep-sea shark was first discovered in the waters around Japan.

While not overly large as far as sharks go (I'll tell you in a minute), you already know that what makes this shark interesting is its ugly-shaped head. Again... my use of the word 'ugly' is subjective. You may find it quite cute, in which case I do not want to meet your spouse.

Aside from the long nose which has a trowel-shape to it, this shark is mostly pink. Pink and with a face only a mother could love. I suppose my mother would not love this face, though.I mean... it's on a shark! Why would my mother love a shark's ugly face. But I digress.

The pink color is due to blood vessels underneath a semi-transparent skin. Semi-transparent skin? This shark keeps getting uglier by the paragraph, although the fins do have a bluish color about them.

This shark can grow to 3.3-meters (11-feet) in length... though some people do say up to 14-feet. The weight of the largest Goblin shark ever caught was 210-kilograms (460-pounds)

It is a deep sea shark and is normally at around 250-meters (821-feet) down, though one shark was caught at the 1,300-meter (4,265 foot) depth.

Now... check out the You Tube video below shot in a Japanese aquarium... this image of the Goblin Shark isn't that bad. It still won't win the Shark Beauty Contest. But, it's not that bad... in fact... it's starting to grow on me.

Notice the lack of a stiff dorsal fin - usually the tell-tale sign of a shark in the water? The Goblin shark's dorsal fin is soft and floppy.

As well, check out the back tail... the long asymmetrical caudal fin which looks quite similar to a Thresher shark to me. 

The Goblin shark's spade-like nose is covered with tiny sensory cells which scientists think help it find food in the deep waters where it lives... food such as deep-sea crabs, squids and other deep-sea fish. The key thing here is that the deeper waters are of course, darker waters... so it is difficult to see things... hence the snout sensory cells.

Before I get to it's mouth - a brief bit if history....  the first ever Goblin shark - a 3.5-meter long male - was caught in the Kuroishio Current off the coast of Yokohama back in 1897. The scared fisherman who caught it dubbed it 'tenguzame'... quite literally 'Goblin shark' because it's lengthy nose reminded him of the mythical Japanese 'tengu' goblin. 

This is a very rarely spotted shark. And, alongside of Japan, it is also found deep in the waters off South Africa, Portugal and I believe Australia. 

Now... how many of you recall the movie Alien? Do you recall how the Alien had a second small mouth that came out? That's what the Goblin Shark's mouth reminds me off.

You see, the Goblin shark has a jaw that is protrusible, which means it kind of allows the jaw to protrude - extend forward (and withdraw the mouth) at will. When fully protruded, it's mouth resembles a tunnel which it uses to suck up the food.

So... yes... the 'Goblin shark's nose allows it to 'smell' its prey, and since the elongated nose also seems to get in the way of the shark's mouth, the Goblin Shark has apparently evolved a jaw that can protrude forward to suck in its meal. Good old evolution. Or devolution.    

When the mouth is retracted, it looks like a pink Grey Nurse shark. With a abnormally long nose, that is.

Another weird and disturbing fact I found is that one-quarter of the shark's weight comes from an abnormally large liver. I'm unsure if Goblin shark foie gras is tasty - I doubt it - but this large liver helps the shark with its buoyancy - just like it does with all of the other sharks, which do not have a so-called swim bladder. As for the larger liver and thus buoyancy... this is a deep-sea shark.

Check out the You Tube video below to see a small provoked Goblin shark's protruded mouth in action.

And, for your information... to reiterate... the ugly-looking jaw only protrudes when it is about to bite something for a snack. 

It's fascinating, but ugly. Like me.

Andrew Joseph
Thanks to my buddy Rob and my son's book on sharks for the heads up on this very, very interesting creature. I must admit that when I first saw a drawing of the Goblin shark in that book, I thought it was a joke. I stand (or sit) corrected.

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