'Goblin shark' caught: Shrimp fisherman nabs rare shark

For just the second time ever, a deep-sea 'goblin shark' has been seen in the Gulf of Mexico.

Carl Moore
Fisherman Carl Moore accidentally captured and released this goblin shark on April 19.

A rare, deep-sea "goblin shark" caught by Florida shrimp fishermen is only the second of these creatures ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists say.

The prehistoric-looking beast, whose pink color and daggerlike teeth earn the shark its name, is usually seen in deep waters off the coast of Japan. 

On April 19, fisherman Carl Moore and his crewmates were fishing off the coast of Key West, Florida, when they hauled up the 15-foot-long (4.6 meters) shark with a net full of shrimp from 2,000 feet (610 m) of water. They hoisted the animal up and threw it back into the ocean. [On the Brink: Stunning Photos of Wild Sharks]

"I didn't even know what it was," Moore told The Houston Chronicle. "I didn't get the tape measure out, because that thing's got some wicked teeth, they could do some damage." 

Fortunately, Moore was able to take pictures of the creature using the camera on a cellphone he had just bought. The fishermen reported the sighting to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where shark expert John Carlson was alerted.

"As a whole we know very little about these animals — how old they get, how fast they grow, where their nurseries are," Carlson told Live Science. Scientists haven't done a lot of deepwater surveys, so they don't know if the sharks are really rare, or just haven't been seen, he added.

The Key West shark was slightly smaller than the first one seen in the Gulf, which at 18 feet (5.5 m) long was the largest ever recorded, Carlson said. By contrast, most of the goblin sharks seen off Japan are only about 7 or 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 m) in length. Also, the new animal is most likely female, because it lacked male sexual appendages known as claspers, Carlson said.

The first and only other goblin shark sighting in the Gulf was in 2000, when one got caught in a ghost crab net off the coast of Louisiana, Carlson said. And the only other sighting in the western North Atlantic Ocean was near a seamount east of Bermuda in the 1970s, he said.

They are usually found between water depths of 1,000 and 3,000 feet (300 and 900 m), where the animals probably feed on small fish and squid, spearing them with their sharp teeth, Carlson said.

Sharks are an ancient type of fish that date back to before the dinosaurs, but goblin sharks are a more recent lineage, Carson said. "They look more prehistoric, because they're adapted to life in the deep sea."

Carlson and his colleagues are currently working on a paper about the new shark sighting to submit for publication in a scientific journal.

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.