A bizarre-looking shark was unintentionally caught by fishermen off the waters of Eden, New South Wales in January this year. The rare specimen, a juvenile male that measured 1.26 meters long, is what is known as a goblin shark.
The mysterious looking marine animal, which lives at the bottom of the ocean has nail-like teeth and a flabby pink body. Unlike other sharks such as tiger sharks and whalers, the creature does not slice its prey but rather tear it using its distinct set of teeth.
Described as "alien of the deep" the prehistoric looking creature is characterized by a large and fleshy snout with electroreceptors that can detect if there is a prey nearby. The sensors, known as ampullae of Lorenzini, allow the shark to sense the electric field that is produced by its prey between 300 to 900 meters deep.
The shark is considered as a living fossil because it is the only surviving member of the Mitsukurinidae shark family, which goes back as early as 125 million years ago.
Michael McMaster of the Merimbula Aquarium has donated the body of the shark to the Australian Museum in Sydney where it now takes its place as the fourth specimen of its kind housed there. The Ichthyology Collection of the museum now has four specimens of goblin shark that were collected in Australian waters.
Prior to its acquisition, the museum's ichthyology collection manager Mark McGrouther has only seen three goblin sharks.
"These are amazing looking animals," McGrouther said. "They are not encountered very often, so when they do it's a very special day."
Mike Kelly, the fisherman who caught the shark, on the other hand, claims to have caught about 12 goblin sharks in his career noting that his most recent catch from about 600 meters of water was a small one.
The appearance of the fish may be scary with its snout and set of long pointed teeth but experts said that the fish does not pose threats to people. The shark is known to prey on fish, crab and squid.
Shark expert John Carlson, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that much about the fish remains a mystery saying that they do not know how long the sharks have lived, how often they reproduce and how big they become when they reproduce because those still remain a mystery.