The dwarf lanternshark is one of the smallest species in the world, and make an appearance only when caught by fishermen by accident.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the dwarf lantern shark as ‘data deficient’. This means that there’s not enough data available on this species to make a proper assessment of its status.
Whenever you hear of sharks, you imagine a man-eating predator ready to bite you at a moment’s notice. The movie Jaws definitely made sure that we’d think twice before entering the waters. But sharks rarely come to the surface unless they are hungry, and you can’t blame them for taking a bite at what looks to them like a free-for-all buffet.
But not all fish have the liberty of coming to the surface. Some prefer the environment they were born in. The ocean is pretty vast and unexplored, and while we have reached outer space, the mysteries beneath our feet still elude us. One of the residents belong to the dogfish shark family, and is rarely seen outside its environment. This is the dwarf lanternshark. Let’s have a look at some interesting dwarf lanternshark facts.
The dwarf lanternshark is the smallest species of the dogshark family ‘etmopteridae’, present only on the upper continental slopes of Colombia and Venezuela. Its scientific name is Etmopterus perryi, named after noted shark expert Perry Gilbert. It was discovered as recently as 1964.
The smallest known sharks grow to around 6 – 6.8 inches in length, and can fit in the palm of one’s hand. The largest known fish of its kind is around 8.3 inches long.
They have a long, flattened head that occupies one third of the body. They have large bulbous eyes which help them in navigating in the darkness.
Dwarf lanternshark are dark-brown in color. The ventral side of its body is covered with black markings, and some of these markings emit photophores, while the markings near the pelvic fin emit chromatophores, which help them blend in the environment.
Like other lanternsharks, photophores along its belly and fins help them camouflage themselves when they feed in the shallow waters. Plus, the light also attracts smaller fish, which they prey on.
It has 20 to 23 teeth in the upper jaw, and 30 to 34 teeth in the lower jaw.
It has a short trunk with black patches on its caudal fin. This species has no anal fin.
It has 5 small gill slits on the lateral side of its body.
The skin of the shark is covered with thin-shaped markings called dermal denticles.
As in other species, females are larger than the males.
Their main diet consists of krill, shrimp, zooplankton, and smaller fish.
Since these sharks rarely come to the surface, it’s assumed that they dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean, mostly the benthic zone. They are reported to live in a small area of the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela.
Dwarf lanternshark reproduce by aplacental viviparity, giving birth to 2 – 3 pups at a time. With this low rate of reproduction, nothing is actually known about the scarcity of this fish, as they live deep under the sea and are rarely seen.
Young sharks are as small as 2.2 to 2.4 inches long at birth.
Other Interesting Facts
Like many deep sea creatures, these sharks have bioluminescent properties which help them navigate in the deep sea.
Similar to anglerfish, these sharks attract prey by glowing in the dark, and consuming them when they come up close. They stay invisible to the predators swimming below them, as the glowing belly masks their silhouette.
This shark has a lifespan of 20 – 30 years.
Other lanternsharks belonging to the same family include:
- Velvet belly lanternshark (E. spinax)
- Caribbean lanternshark (E. hillianus)
- Brown lanternshark (E. unicolor)
- Broadbanded lanternshark (E. gracilispinis)
- Fringefin lanternshark (E. schultzi)
- Combtooth lanternshark (E. decacuspidatus)
Although these sharks are small, they become a victim of accidental fishing. They don’t hold much value in the fishing industry, and are disposed off as a result. With their reproduction rate already low, and our unfamiliarity with their kind, we have no ideas as to how endangered this species actually is.