Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan 1898

Other Names: Elphin Shark

Head of a juvenile Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, with the jaws protruded showing the long slender teeth. Source: Dianne J. Bray / Museums Victoria. License: CC by Attribution


A bizarre deep-sea shark with a large flabby body and a flattened blade-like snout that extends well beyond the highly protrusible jaws with their long, slender tapering teeth.

Underwater footage of a juvenile Goblin Shark on the Discovery Channel.

Video - searching for Goblins sharks in Tokyo Bay

Video of a young Goblin Shark caught alive in Tokyo Bay on January 25, 2007, and placed in an aquarium where it died after a few days later.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Mitsukurina owstoni in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3254

Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan 1898

More Info


Widely but patchily distributed in the Atlantic, Western Indian and Pacific oceans, living near the bottom at 95–1300m.

Most goblin sharks have been captured near the bottom in outer continental shelf, upper slope and around seamounts, at depths of 0-1,300 m, mostly between 270-960 m.

It has been suggested that goblin sharks are mesopelagic. They have very watery flesh that aids buoyancy, and stomach contenats of some individuals have contained midwater squid, crustaceans and fishes.


Vertebrae 122–124 (53–56 precaudal)

Teeth 48-52 (upper jaw); 42-55 (lower jaw)

Head length 16–25% of TL.

Distinctive sharks with a large, flabby body and an elongate, depressed, tapering blade-like tapering extending over the greatly protruding jaws; teeth long, slender, lanceolate teeth; eyes small; caudal fin with a weak ventral lobe and an elongate upper lobe; exposed gill filaments; small lobe-like similar­-sized dorsal fins; anal fin present; small and broad pectoral fins.


To about 4 m.


Pale grey to greyish-brown. Goblin sharks often appear to pinkish-grey, however this is due to damage during capture.


Carnivore. Goblin sharks have long slender grasping teeth and feed on fishes and invertebrates such as crustaceans and squids. The stomach contents of 121 Goblin sharks caught in the Tokyo Submarine Canyon contained bony fishes, squids and crustaceans (Yano et al. 2003).

The stomach of a juvenile female taken captured in a deep-water gillnet in off New Zealand contained the remains of mesopelagic fishes, squid and crustaceans.


The biology is poorly known. Like all sharks and rays, the sexes are separate, and males use claspers, or modified pelvic fins, for internal fertilisation. Although pregnant females are unknown, it is assumed Goblin Sharks are aplacental viviparous (ovoviviparous) and give birth to live young. The litter sizes are thought to be small, and the embryos are probably oviphagous - a method of embryonic nutrition where the developing embryo feeds on unfertilised eggs and possibly on other smaller embryos within the uterus.

The smallest Goblin Shark known measured 88 cm. Males mature by 264cm, females by 335cm


Occasionally taken as bycatch in deep-water commercial fisheries - deep bottom-set gillnets, bottom longlines and trawl fisheries. Taken regularly in small numbers in bottom-set gill nets off Japan.

Most captures that have been reported are of juveniles, suggesting most adults either live in deeper waters than commercial fisheries, or occur in habitats that are not fished.


IUCN Red List: Least Concern


The large spade-like snout of the Goblin Shark is covered with pores. These are the openings of the ampullae of Lorenzini - a mucous-filled canal system on the snouts of sharks and rays with electric receptors used to detect prey. 

Similar Species

The Goblin Shark is the only species in the family Mitsukurinidae.


Mitsukurina is named after Keigo Mitsukuri, a Japanese zoologist who studied at University College London during the 1860's. The species owstoni was named in honour of Alan Owston (1853-1915), an English collector, primarily of wildlife in Asia.

Species Citation

Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan 1898, Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. (3)1(6): 200, Pls. 11-12. Type locality: Misaki, Sagami Sea, near Yokohama, Japan, Western North Pacific.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan 1898


Bass, A.J., Aubrey, J.D. & Kistnasamy, N. 1975. Sharks of the east coast of southern Africa. V. The families Hexanchidae, Chlamydoselachidae, Heterodontidae, Pristiophoridae and Squatinidae. South African Association for Marine Biological Research, Oceanographic Research Institute Investigational Report No. 43.

Bean, B.A. 1905. Notes on an adult goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) of Japan. Proc. U.S. natl. Mus. 28(1409): 815-818.

Caltabellotta, F.P., Siders, Z.A., Cailliet, G., Motta, F.S. & Gadig, O.B.F. 2020.  First study on age and growth of the deep-water Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni (Jordan, 1898). bioRxiv  2020.02.04.934281; https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.02.04.934281, open access 

Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO species catalogue. Part 1 - Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes.: i-viii + 1-249.

Compagno, L.J.V. 2001. Sharks of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Volume 2. Bullhead, mackerel and carpet sharks (Heterodontiformes, Lamniformes and Orectolobiformes). FAO Species Catalogue for Fishery Purposes. No. 1 (vol. 2): i-viii + 1-269.

Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.

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Finucci, B. & Duffy, C.A.J. 2018. Mitsukurina owstoni . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T44565A2994832. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T44565A2994832.en. Downloaded on 18 February 2020.

Glover, C.J.M. 1976. The goblin shark Scapanorhynchus owstoni (Jordan, 1898): confirmation of the first Australian record. South Australian Naturalist 50(4): 69-72.

Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Families Cetorhinidae, Alopiidae, Mitsukurinidae. pp. 144-146 figs 116-121 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs

Hoese, D.F. & J.E. Gates. 2006. Mitsukurinidae Pp. 66-67. In: Beesley, P.L. & A. Wells. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35. ABRS & CSIRO Publishing. Volume 1.

IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group. Specialist Group website. Available at: http://www.iucnssg.org/.

Kobayashi, H., Yamaguchi, Y., Nonoda, T., Izawa, K. and Ban, H. 1982. The sharks caught on the continental shelf and slope in the Kumano Nada Region along the Pacific coast of Japan. Bulletin of the Faculty of Fisheries, Mie University 9: 101–123.

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Parsons, G.R., Ingram Jr., G.W. and Havard, R. 2002. First record of the goblin shark Mitsukurina owstoni, Jordan (Family Mitsukurinidae) in the Gulf of Mexico. Southeastern Naturalist 1(2): 189–192.

Hussakof, L. 1909. A new goblin shark, Scapanorhynchus jordani, from Japan. Bull. Amer. Mus. nat. Hist. 26 (19): 257-262.

Jordan, David Starr. 1898. Description of a Species of Fish (Mitsukurina owstoni) from Japan, the type of a distinct family of lamnoid Sharks. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 1(6): 199-204.

Stevens, J.D. & J.R. Paxton. 1985. A new record of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni (family Mitsukurinidae), from eastern Australia. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 108(1): 37-45.

Stewart, A.L. and Clark, M.R. 1988. Records of three families and four species of fish new to the New Zealand fauna. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 15: 577–583.

Ugoretz, J.K. and Seigel, J.A. 1999. First eastern Pacific record of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni (Lamniformes: Mitsukurinidae). California Fish and Game. 85(3): 118–120.

Uyeno, T., K. Nakamura & S. Mikami. 1976. On the body coloration and an abnormal specimen of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Jordan. Bull. Kanagawa Prefect. Mus. (Nat. Sci.) 9: 67-70.

White, W.L. 2008. Family Mitsukurinudae. In Gomon, M.F., D.J. Bray & R.H. Kuiter. Fishes of Australia's southern coast. Reed New Holland, Chatswood, Australia.

Yano, K. & Miya, M. & Aizawa, M. & Noichi, T. 2007. Some aspects of the biology of the goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, collected from the Tokyo Submarine Canyon and adjacent waters, Japan. Ichthyological Research 54 (4): 388-398.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37009002

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:200-1300 m

Habitat:Deep-sea, benthopelagic, mesopelagic

Max Size:500+ cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map