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The Goblin Shark

Almost everything about the goblin shark reflects the harshness of the dark underworld it calls home. With nutrients so hard to come by in the deep sea, energy savings have meant cutbacks in the beauty department. 

The creature's muscles are flabby, its skeleton is mushy and its skin is nothing more than a thin, transparent sheath, low in both collagen and pigment. But no feature contributes to the goblin's ghoulish appearance more than its pair of extendible jaws.

How these animals use such a flexible face in the wild has been a mystery that's puzzled scientists for years. Goblin sharks can reach some 10.5 feet (3.2 metres) in length – that's no shark chart-topper, but it's impressive for an animal built for lethargy in an environment where food is scarce. Somehow, these predators eat enough to support a respectable frame. 

The assumption has been that the strange fish compensate for poor swimming ability with exceptionally far reach: if you can't keep up with your prey, why not engulf it before it makes a getaway? But those suspicions weren't confirmed until 2008, when divers with Japanese broadcast company NHK managed to film a goblin shark alive in its natural habitat for the first time. 

To understand just how special this bit of footage is, chew on this: fewer than 50 goblin sharks have been found in the 118 years since the first one was discovered off the Japanese coast. The animals spend their time between 130 and 4,265 feet (40-1,300 metres) beneath the surface, so most of what we know about the species to this day comes from dead specimens that have been hauled up as bycatch. 

The Japanese dive team didn't just capture the predation you see below – they also managed to film four more goblin shark strikes over the following two years. 

 

goblin shark footage