Rare Catch and Release Casts Light on Giant, Elusive Goblin Shark
May 5, 2014 2:56 PM
GiantNO shark was at least 15 feet long, has "few natural predators"
Down down to Goblin-town / You go, my lad! / Ho, ho! my lad!
"Down in Goblin Town",
, J.R.R. Tolkien
In the murky dark waters of the Gulf of Mexico, tentacles enfold around fish, dragging them into the waiting beak of predatory squid. But these terrors of the deep themselves swim in fear of a far larger and greater predator, the goblin shark (
Growing up to 18 feet in length -- nearly the size of a great white shark (
; avg. adult length 23 ft.) -- and hunting waters 1,000 to 3,000 feet deep, this oddly shaped, elusive predator is among the world's largest and most fearsome sea predators.
Much like another giant of the deep -- the Greenland Shark (
) -- modern science knows precious little about
this terrifying creature
, which is believed to be the last in a line of prehistoric sharks that dominated the seas some 125 million years ago.
Now for the first time in nearly a decade and a half, a fisherman has caught a goblin shark and photographed it, providing valuable evidence of this mysterious monster.
The man who made this catch of a lifetime was Carl Moore, 63, of Townsend, Georgia. He was out catching shrimp when he noticed something odd stuck in the nets. It appears the goblin (shark) was venturing into shallow waters to feast on the same abundance of small sea scavengers that Mr. Moore himself was looking to net.
The rare goblin shark is seen here, still alive, glaring at its captor, prior to its release.
[Image Source: NOAA]
The fisherman recalls in
[I've] caught so much weird stuff: sawfish, Bahamian anglefish, loggerback turtles weighing 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. First thing I told them boys was, 'Man, he's ugly! Looks prehistoric to me.'
I was going to take the tape measure, then he flashed around again. I said, 'Forget the measurement. That thing'll eat me up!'
Fortunately, Mr. Moore had the means of capturing photographic proof of his amazing catch. In order to show off his fishing adventures to his grandson Keaton, who just turned 4 years old, Mr. Moore has begun carrying a camera with him on his journeys.
Despite being in "disbelief" at the fearsome sight of the shark -- which features a large exposed gum region, with sharp protruding teeth and a long horn-like snout -- he managed to snap pictures. But he didn't leave the rare creature to die; he tossed the still-struggling shark back in. He states:
Anything that's alive we try to put back in the ocean.
Professor John Carlson of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
's (NOAA) research biology division states:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some would call them 'ugly.' I think, 'interesting.'
We don't know a lot about deep water fauna. We know little about (goblin sharks) -- how long they live, how fast they grow.
Mr. Carlson and Mr. Moore are a bit at odds about the size.
The average adult goblin shark is around (10 ft.). But this was a relatively large one, believed to be a full 15 feet or more long. [Image Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Mr. Moore believes it was between 18 and 20 feet long -- making it the largest goblin shark ever caught. Mr. Moore believes that such things are often overestimated in the heat of the moment, but that based on the pictures it was likely roughly 15 feet.
One thing they both agree on, though -- the shark appears to have few known natural predators, particularly as an adult. Goblin sharks are found worldwide, but are rarely caught. This is the first confirmed catch since 2000. Only two have ever been caught in the Gulf of Mexico.
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