The Goblin Shark, A Terrifying Deep-Sea Creature, Has To Be Seen To Be Believed [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on October 18, 2013 6:22 PM EDT

goblin shark
Goblin sharks are terrifying creatures of the deep sea, with unique jaws for capturing prey. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

If the name "goblin shark" sounds like it belongs to a horrifying creature, well, it absolutely does. WIRED's "Absurd Creature" column this week introduces readers to the terrifying deep-sea shark. First described in a scientific journal in 1898, the blessedly rare creature is poorly understood and should probably stay that way.

Known by the scientific name Mitsukurina owstoni, the goblin shark is believed to be a living fossil, an organism that has remained unchanged for millions of years and has has few living relatives. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, the largest specimen ever found was 12.6 feet and weighed 463 pounds. That's one big goblin.

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As you can see in this incredible Shark Week video, the goblin shark captures prey by sucking and trapping it in its mouth. The goblin shark's jaw is not attached to its skull by bone, but with ligaments and cartilage, allowing it great flexibility to open up and capture prey.

"This arrangement allows the entire upper jaw to be dropped and then protruded forward during a bite," conservation biologist Clinton Duffy told WIRED. Duffy added that the shooting forward of the jaw "probably creates a vacuum that sucks prey into the shark's mouth."

The goblin shark's odd jaws are sought after by collectors. The going rate for a goblin shark's jaws ranges from a reasonable $1,500 to a you-gotta-be-kidding-me $4,000, says the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Fewer than 50 goblin sharks have been observed around the world since the early 1900s, according to the Australian Museum, which holds four specimens. The few goblin sharks which have been captured have come from around the globe, with the majority of them being hauled in from fishing trawls in Japan, some as deep as 4,000 feet. A goblin shark was once exhibited in an aquarium in Japan but died after a week, presumably after seeing its reflection in the tank's glass.

Below, watch a terrifying video of a goblin shark.

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