Goblin Shark Found On Beach May Have Been Plastic Toy, Scientists Say

Not the goblin shark mentioned in the story. (Public/Screenshot/YouTube — User: National Geographic)

Taylor Giles Contributor
Font Size:

A rare deep-sea shark found on a Mediterranean beach in Greece may have been a plastic toy, scientists say.

A man named Giannis Papadakis first found the goblin shark in August 2020 and took a picture of it, The New York Times (NYT) reported Friday, citing the Mediterranean Marine Science journal. A group of scientists discovered Papadakis’ photo of the shark and published the finding in the journal, allegedly based solely on Papadakis’ picture.

“It didn’t look right,” Dr. David Ebert, author of “Sharks of the World,” said, according to the NYT. “It’s too small, and its gills don’t look like they’re actually open. It doesn’t look natural at all.”

Scientists later began to question the authenticity of the shark in the picture, the NYT reported. Skeptics argued the shark did not have teeth, had excessively rounded fins and that the number of gill slits did not match up with how many a goblin shark would typically have. (RELATED: Study Alleges Discovery Channel’s ‘Shark Week’ Is Biased Against Sharks, Women)

Italian toy company DeAgostin then posted a picture of a plastic goblin shark toy that bore a striking similarity to the one from Papadakis’ picture, according to the outlet.

The authors of the study stood by their published findings, asserting the shark in the photograph was authentic, the NYT reported. Still, they walked back their size estimate for the shark from 30 inches to around seven inches and argued the creature might be an embryo.

Another scientist, Dr. Jurgen Pollerspöck, said even if the shark was around seven inches, “[e]mbryos of this size are not viable,” the NYT reported. He also argued that no one has ever found a goblin shark in the Mediterranean.

“In my opinion, the problem and responsibility lies with the editor of the journal and the reviewers,” Pollerspöck added, according to the outlet.

Goblin sharks live at depths of 800 feet to over 3,000 feet below the surface and range between eight-and-a-half feet long to 20 feet long, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.