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Unraveling the jaw-dropping goblin shark

August 10, 2016
Hokkaido University
Scientists have revealed goblin sharks' 'slingshot feeding' mechanism, which involves high-speed protrusion of their jaws. Goblin sharks have revealed a remarkable biting mechanism, named 'slingshot feeding,' which involves high-speed manipulation of the species' highly protrusible jaws.

A research team, led by Emeritus Professor Kazuhiro Nakaya of Japan's Hokkaido University, analyzed world-first footage captured by public broadcaster NHK in which two goblin sharks separately captured prey on a total of five occasions. The research has unraveled a century-old mystery surrounding how the deep-sea shark utilizes its protruding jaws, among other factors, to feed itself.

The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) was first discovered in deep waters off Japan in 1898.

The biting process, named "slingshot feeding" by the researchers, involved the projection of the jaws at speeds of up to 3.1 meters per second -- the fastest speed recorded for a fish -- over distances comparable to 8.6-9.4 percent of the total length of the shark's body, far outranking the jaw protrusion of other kinds of shark. The researchers also newly discovered that the sharks opened and closed their mouths again during jaw-retraction, for unknown reasons.

The researchers concluded that the shark, which has a slow swimming speed, has evolved to adapt to deep-sea environments where food is scarce, possibly compensating for its slow swimming speed.

Known as Mitsukuri sharks in Japan, goblin sharks are so called in Western nations due to their somewhat alarming appearance: a pinkish body lacking proper pigment, exposed teeth and protruding jaws. Until now, few details were known about the species. The new findings on once shallow-water-dwelling sharks are likely to have a strong impact on future studies relating to how fish adapt to deep-sea environments.

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Materials provided by Hokkaido University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kazuhiro Nakaya, Taketeru Tomita, Kenta Suda, Keiichi Sato, Keisuke Ogimoto, Anthony Chappell, Toshihiko Sato, Katsuhiko Takano, Yoshio Yuki. Slingshot feeding of the goblin shark Mitsukurina owstoni (Pisces: Lamniformes: Mitsukurinidae). Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 27786 DOI: 10.1038/srep27786

Cite This Page:

Hokkaido University. "Unraveling the jaw-dropping goblin shark." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 August 2016. <>.
Hokkaido University. (2016, August 10). Unraveling the jaw-dropping goblin shark. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 29, 2023 from
Hokkaido University. "Unraveling the jaw-dropping goblin shark." ScienceDaily. (accessed November 29, 2023).

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