Goblin shark, Mitsukurina owstoni Click to enlarge image
Australian Museum specimen of the Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni. Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    The species grows to 3.9 m in length.


The very strange-looking Goblin Shark has a distinctively shaped snout and an impressive array of long, pointed teeth. The fish, however, is found in deep water and poses no threat to people.

What do Goblin Sharks look like?


The Goblin Shark has a shovel-like snout, flabby body, and a tail with a weakly developed lower lobe.

One of the distinctive features of the Goblin Shark is its protrusible mouth. The mouth can retract to a position under the eye, or extend forward under the snout.

The species was named in honour of Alan Owston (1853-1915), an "English collector of Asian Wildlife, as well as a businessman and yachtsman" (Beolens & Watkins, 2003).

Where do Goblin Sharks live?


The species is found near the sea floor in marine waters to depths of about 1200 m.


The Goblin Shark has been caught in scattered localities through the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In Australia it is known from off New South Wales, Tasmania and possibly from off South Australia.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

What do Goblin Sharks eat and how have they adapted?

Feeding and diet

Yano and colleagues examined the stomach contents of 121 Goblin Sharks from Tokyo Submarine Canyon. Prey items included bony fishes, squids and crustaceans.

When feeding, the Goblin Shark extends its jaws forward faster than any other species of shark. See the scientific report on Slingshot Feeding by Nakaya and colleagues.

Behaviours and adaptations

The underside of the snout is heavily pored. These pores are the external openings of the ampullae of Lorenzini, the electricity detecting organs. The Goblin Shark most likely hunts its prey by detecting electric fields.

Are Goblin Sharks dangerous?

Danger to humans

The Goblin Shark not considered dangerous to humans.

Sharks online publication

Delve into the world of Sharks and explore the digital publication with videos and extra content from the exhibition. Hear from First Nations peoples, scientists and conservationists as they share their stories about these ancient survivors.

Explore now


  1. Beolens, B. & M. Watkins. 2003. Whose bird? Men and women commemorated in the common names of birds. Christopher Helm. Pp. 384.
  2. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 1994. Sharks and Rays of Australia. CSIRO. Pp. 513, Pl. 1-84.
  3. Last, P.R. & J.D. Stevens. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Edition 2. CSIRO. Pp. 644, Pl. 1-91.
  4. Nakaya, K., Tomita, T., Suda, K., Sato, K., Ogimoto, K., Chappell, A., Sato, T., Takano, K.m & Y. Yuki, 2016. Slingshot feeding of the goblin shark Mitsukurina owstoni (Pisces: Lamniformes: Mitsukurinidae). Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 27786 Online 212 June 2016.
  5. Wilga, C.D. 2005. Morphology and Evolution of the Jaw Suspension in Lamniform Sharks. Journal of Morphology. 265:102–119. Download.
  6. Yano, K., Miya, M., Aizawa, M. & T. Noichi. 2003. Abstracts. 2003 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Pp. 533.