The goblin shark has a slingshot mouth

The goblin shark, prior to extending its jaw (top) and with its jaw extended (bottom)(Credit: Okinawa Churashima Foundation)

The bizarre-looking goblin shark lives in the waters off the coast of Japan, at great depths where prey isn't always plentiful. It's also not a very fast swimmer. So, how does it manage to catch enough to eat? As scientists from Japan's Hokkaido University recently discovered, it's able to shoot its protruding jaws forward faster than any other fish.

The team, led by Prof. Kazuhiro Nakaya, analyzed footage of two goblin sharks recorded by Japanese public broadcaster NHK. In the video, the sharks captured prey a combined total of five times.

It was noted that when the sharks bit, they projected their jaws forward at speeds of up to 3.1 meters (10.2 ft) per second. Their jaws also travelled approximately 8.6 to 9.4 percent of their total body length, which is much farther than other shark species are able to manage. As their jaws retracted, they opened and closed once again, for reasons which are so far not understood.

The entire process, dubbed "slingshot feeding," is seen as an evolutionary adaption that was made as the sharks transitioned from living in shallower waters. According to the university, the findings "are likely to have a strong impact on future studies relating to how fish adapt to deep-sea environments."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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