The Goblin Shark's Weird Bite Explained

The great white shark is the king of all sharks. Why even bother with any of the others when a great white can so clearly kick the butt of almost everything in the sea, with the possible exception of dolphins. Okay, so that makes it sound a little less badass but still, when you think "shark" you usually think "great white." And when you do, you're leaving out like 439 other kinds of sharks, some of which are just as badass as the great white and some of which are downright bizarre. 

The Goblin shark's weird bite is only part of the weirdness

The winner of the world's most bizarrely badass shark competition (bet you didn't know there was a competition for that, did you? Spoiler alert: There's not.) is the goblin shark, which frankly looks like what might happen if Dobby the House Elf grew fangs and threw himself in a clothes wringer. Goblin sharks are pink and flabby and kind of translucent, with long sword-like noses and jowls like a bulldog, but not a cute bulldog. Yes this thing is hideous, and it's also terrifying because it can do something weird with its mouth that you may have previously only seen in special effects. According to Earth Touch News, the goblin shark can open its mouth 111 degrees, or more than twice as wide as a human. Then it fires its jaw forward at a speed of roughly 10 feet per second, which is faster than most cobras. At maximum extension, its jaw accounts for nearly 10 percent of the entire length of its body, which can be up to 10 feet long.

The Goblin shark is weird and elusive

How does it accomplish such a horrific feat? Well, according to Wired, the goblin shark's jaw isn't fused to its skull, it just sort of hangs there on ligaments and cartilage. When it fires its jaw at its prey, it relaxes the ligaments, and then stretches them again to draw the jaw back into its face. There's probably some suction, too, which helps bring the goblin shark's prey into its mouth.

If this is the first time you've ever heard about one of these things, don't worry. Goblin sharks are pretty rare — in the 100 plus years since it was first discovered, only 50 specimens have ever been found. That's because they like to hang out in the depths, sometimes more than 4,000 feet under the surface. So there's very little danger that you'll ever encounter one of these things in the pink, flabby, translucent, terrifying flesh. That's a relief.