On the face of it the Goblin Shark, Mitsukurina owstoni, would appear to have little impact upon the environment. It is one of the least seen and least studied of all of the world’s 440 shark species, and thus if it wasn’t there would anything change.
The Goblin Shark is one of those creatures who lives in some of the deeper regions of the world’s major oceans. Living at depths ranging from 200m down to 1300 metres, the Goblin Shark has rarely been seen in its natural environment, and is most often observed after being captured in the nets of Japanese fishermen.
The strange looking Goblin Shark though is a creature that is recognisable because of its long elongated flat nose, and protruding jaw that allows it to catch its prey. The Goblin Shark is also a fairly large one, ranging in length from 2.5 metres up to 3.5 metres, with a weight in the region of 160kg. Its colouring though is more of a pinkish one rather than the normal shark grey, something that is caused by its semi-transparent skin.
Despite its strange looks though it is much like many other large sharks and is at the top of the food chain for its environment. The studies that have been made of the Goblin Shark have suggested that it feeds upon other creatures that reside at the deeper depths of the oceans, including squid, crabs and other fishes.
The belief is that without Goblin Sharks present in the deeper waters of the world’s ocean there would be a decrease in the overall health of the oceans. In particular sick and dying fish and marine life would be left to decay. Additionally the balance of the deepwater ecosystem may be damaged beyond repair.
It is a belief based on evidence from other species of sharks. The decline in numbers of Hammerhead, Dusty, great White and Bull Sharks in the western regions of the Atlantic has removed the top level of the food chain. This has resulted in an increase in number of rays, skates and smaller sharks; which in turn have virtually wipe out scallops, and impacted greatly on the number of oysters and clams.
Removing any predator from a food chain is going to have an impact upon the rest of that chain, and the removal of the Goblin shark would be no different. In many cases the impact of such actions is not even going to be thought of until it is too late. Thankfully though there is no great threat to the existence of the Goblin Shark at the moment, and so it continues to feed upon its prey creating a balance in nature deep under the surface of the world’s oceans.
Sources - http://www.shark.ch/