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Grotesque Goblin Shark Hauled up in Gulf of Mexico, Only Second Time Ever

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May 02, 2014 09:48 PM EDT
Shrimp fishermen working in the Gulf of Mexico hauled up a lot more than they bargained for last month when they netted a rare goblin shark.
Shrimp fishermen working in the Gulf of Mexico hauled up a lot more than they bargained for last month when they netted a rare goblin shark. (Photo : NOAA Fisheries via Facebook)

Shrimp fishermen working in the Gulf of Mexico hauled up a lot more than they bargained for last month when they netted a rare goblin shark.

Goblin sharks (Mitsukurina owstoni) - with their fleshy pink skin, nail-like teeth that protrude from monstrous jaws and oddly long, flat snout - look like the quintessential horrors of the deep.

They are thought to belong to a linage of sharks that's 125 million years old, sometimes earning them the moniker of "living fossils."

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These poorly understood deep-sea creatures are typically found off the coast of Japan, according to Louisiana ABC News affiliate WGNO.

NOAA Fisheries Service said that the 18-foot-long goblin shark was caught accidentally near the Florida Keys. It was let go.

"Shortly after capture, the shark was released into the water and swam away," NOAA reported on its Facebook page.

The shrimping crew had their nets down at about 2,000 feet when shark caught the shark.

"I didn't even know what it was," fisherman Carl 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."

Moore snapped a few pictures of the ugly fish with his camera phone before releasing it, the Chronicle reported, noting that the catch was made April 19, but it was only this week that NOAA was able to confirm that the shark was indeed a goblin.

This marks on the second time a goblin shark has been caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Seeing one so far from its typical home waters was enough for a scientific paper to be written about it when it first happen, and this time scientists were skeptical until they saw the photos.

"At first I wasn't sure if it was even possible for this to happen, but then when the photos came through, it is undeniably a goblin shark," David Shiffman, a marine biologist with the University of Miami, told the Chronicle. "It's a shark ... that's pink!"

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