Goblin Shark
Scapanorynchus texanus Roemer
Description: Complicating the identification of these teeth is the large variety of shapes displayed by each individual tooth, depending on distribution in the jaw.  Further difficulties are found in the fact that some goblin shark teeth superficially resemble two other genera of sharks.  Interestingly, these teeth are usually among the largest of all teeth found here with some between 2 to 3 centimeters (about .75 to 1.25 inches) in length or more.

Several characteristics distinguish anterior goblin teeth, although some must be utilized with caution. The anterior teeth of the goblin possess an elongated main cusp with bilateral roots and may have two side cusplets, one on either side of the main cusp.  The extreme anterior teeth lack cusplets but the anterior teeth possess reduced cusplets (if they were not broken off due to stream wear).  The main characteristic is the prominent longitudinal striations on the bottom half of the inner curved surface of the main cusp.  This characteristic should be used with caution because the fine striations may have been worn off due to stream action.  Other useful characteristics are that goblin teeth have a deep nutrient groove in the prominent medial protrusion of the root and the roots have a high arch.  Also the marginal the bottom of the main cusp on the labial (front) side of the tooth is usually straight across and high up on the root.

Besides the above-described anterior teeth, the goblin also has two other main groups of teeth.  The upper lateral teeth are quite different from the anterior teeth in that they have a more flattened, broad, and triangular main cusp and cusplets.  Sometimes lateral teeth possess a double set of cusplets.  They also have flattened and more blocky roots that are closer to 180 degrees apart and lack a prominent root arch.  Furthermore, they are somewhat smaller in length than the anterior teeth.  The lower lateral teeth are similar to the upper lateral teeth but the main cusp is less broad, more needle like and has less pronounced cusplets.  Posterior teeth resemble lateral teeth but the main cusp is much more slanted and shorter.  It should also be noted that upper lateral and posterior teeth almost never have longitudinal striations, which should not be confused with growth cracks.  Most goblin teeth are between 1 to 2 cm (about .5 to .75 in) in length.

Past publications have labeled the upper lateral teeth as coming from
Isurus sp., the mako shark.  It has been proven that the mako shark did not occur at this locality and this identification should be disregarded.

Commonality: The teeth of the goblin shark are by far the most common vertebrate find in the inner coastal plain formations of New Jersey and at Big Brook.

Similar fossils:
The anterior teeth resemble sand tiger shark teeth and the lateral and posterior teeth resemble porbeagle teeth, both of which are found at this locality.  Anterior goblin teeth are generally two to three times lager than sand tiger shark teeth, but this is not always the true test, especially in juvenile specimens.  A very stream worn goblin tooth may be easily mistaken for a sand tiger, which lacks the prominent longitudinal striations.  The front enamel margin of the teeth of the sand tiger is curved closely around the root arch, unlike the enamel margin of the goblin teeth, which is straight across the root.  Sand tiger teeth also possess a larger medial protrusion of the tooth size.  Porbeagle teeth lack the deep nutrient foramen.  Teeth of the porbeagle are also smaller, rarely exceeding 2 cm (about .75 in) long.

Size: The Late Cretaceous goblins were large predators and probably reached 3 to 5 meters (10 to 17 feet) in length.

Notes: The goblin shark is probably one of the strangest looking, most enigmatic and unusual of all sharks.  Indeed, the goblin is a living fossil.  It was thought to have been extinct, until a Japanese fisherman caught a living, ghostly looking specimen in his net during the late 1800s.  This was a good lesson for all paleontologists who would assume an extinction of the goblin because it was apparently absent from the fossil record since the Miocene.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about this primitive shark is the elongated, flattened snout that projects forward off the top of its head.  It is believed that this is an organ, which helps in locating of prey through the generation of a weak electrical field.  It would need this since it could not use its small eyes in the deep, dark and muddy waters.  It would appear the fossil goblin sharks lived in much shallower waters than the modern species, which live in the very deep waters off the coast of Japan.  It is believed that the increased competition between sharks during the "Shark bloom" of the Teriary coupled with the changing shark fauna forced the goblins to fill the empty niches of the deeper waters.

Goblin sharks are very common and widespread throughout the Late Cretaceous.  Apparently they have changed very little since their appearance.
Anterior teeth
a. Lingual  b. Side   c. Labial
Upper
Anterior - Lateral
tooth
Upper Lateral teeth
Upper Posterior tooth
Lower Posterior teeth
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Ref 1.
Typical teeth
a. Upper Anterior tooth  b. Upper Posterior tooth
  c. Upper or Lower Anterior tooth (Labial View)
d. Upper or Lower Anterior Tooth (Side view)
Typical teeth
a. Upper or Lower Anterior tooth  b. Upper or Lower Anterior tooth
c. Upper Lateral tooth  d. Lower Lateral tooth  e. Lower Posterior tooth