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Lanternfishes: Myctophiformes

Physical Characteristics

Lanternfishes have many light-producing organs covering their bodies. These organs are arranged in patterns that vary according to species. In addition to light-producing organs, many lanternfishes have glowing scales and glands. Lanternfishes are small, about 3 inches (8 centimeters) long. The most common lanternfishes look like anchovies and sometimes are called glowing anchovies. The jaws of lanternfishes have many tiny teeth. These fishes have two general body types. One is a strong, firmly muscled body, and the other is a watery, flabby body with a weak skeleton and muscles.

Lanternfishes are brilliant metallic bronze to dark blue-black on the back and have mirrorlike silvery sides and belly. Some deep-dwelling lanternfishes are dark brown or black. The light-producing organs on freshly captured lanternfishes appear silver, reddish, or deep blue.

All lanternfishes have an adipose (ADD-uh-pohs) fin, which is a short fin between the dorsal fin and the tail fin. The dorsal (DOOR-suhl) fin is the fin along the midline of the back. Some species have long, sweeping pectoral (PECK-ter-uhl) fins, which are the front pair, corresponding to the front legs of four-footed animals. The pectoral fins of the flabby-bodied species are so small and delicate that they are almost unnoticeable. The rays, or supporting rods, of all lanternfish fins are soft.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesLanternfishes: Myctophiformes - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Skinnycheek Lanternfish (benthosema Pterotum): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, LANTERNFISHES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS