In his 50 years trawling the Gulf of Mexico for shrimp, Florida fisherman Carl Moore has hauled up some weird stuff. Sawfish have spines on their faces. 1,500 lb logger head sea turtles are giant swimming shells. But nothing could have prepared him for what he pulled out the sea on April 19th — a 15-foot goblin shark — a species which holds a firm spot amongst the strangest creatures in the sea.
The real story here is not that set of astounding, almost prehensile jaws (which we’ll get to in a minute), but how rare of a catch this is. Though goblin sharks will turn up in nets once in awhile in Japan, this is only the second to ever be found in the Gulf of Mexico. The last one seen in the gulf was caught in 2000. The last reported specimen in the whole North Atlantic before that was documented off the Bahamas in 1970.
From one look at the photo above you’re probably wondering what happened to its face. No, it didn’t try to eat the boat’s spinning propeller. That is actually the extended position of the shark’s mouth. While many fish move their whole body towards a prey item, the goblin shark flings its jaws. As you can see in the video below from Discovery, the shark thrusts its jaws forward at its meal, using them more like a reaching hand or claw.
John Carlson, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research biologist, pointed out what an important find this was on Moore’s part, since not much is known about the goblin shark. “We don’t know how long they live; we don’t know how often they reproduce, or even how big they are when they reproduce,” Carlson told National Geographic. Carlson suspects this specimen was a female, since it lacked any visible claspers — external reproductive organs usually present on male sharks.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Carlson told CNN. “Some would call them ‘ugly.’ I think, ‘interesting.'”
Seeing as Moore was only halfway through his 18 day fishing trip, he decided to toss the still-living oddity back down to its home 2,000-3,000 feet below the surface. Can’t really blame him. Would you want to hang out with that thing for 9 days?
IMAGES: Carl Moore