Dwarf Lantern Shark Facts



Modified: 31 May 2023

Dwarf Lantern Shark Facts, Etmopterus perryi

When people hear the word shark, it’s usually the most famous, or infamous, ones that come to mind. These include the Great White Shark, the Speartooth Shark, or even the Tiger Shark. But sharks come in so many shapes and sizes, which isn’t really a surprise, considering how old they are. In fact, they’re even older than the dinosaurs, and have survived what the dinosaurs couldn’t. So let us tell you about these humble animals, with these 30 Dwarf Lantern Shark facts.

  1. Dwarf lantern sharks usually only grow up to a maximum of 20 cm long.
  2. The biggest of their kind ever discovered managed to grow up to 21 cm long.
  3. Their weight barely reaches 900 grams.
  4. Their heads make up a fifth of their whole bodies.
  5. They have up to 32 teeth on their upper jaws, and up to 34 teeth on their lower jaws.
  1. Ichthyologists Steward Springer and George Burgess first discovered the dwarf lantern shark in 1964.
  2. They caught their first specimen of the species while doing research on the science ship Oregon.
  3. The said specimen measured an estimated 18 cm long.
  4. The Oregon caught said specimen while operating in the Caribbean Sea off the Colombian coast.
  5. They gave it the scientific name of Etmopterus perryi after biologist Perry Gilbert.
  6. However, they only published their studies on the species in 1985.
  7. Dwarf lantern sharks feed on a diet composed mainly of krill, shrimp, and zooplankton.
  8. Scientists estimate their lifespan at between 20 and 30 years.
  9. Most specimens today get caught as bycatch by commercial fishing boats.
  10. Other specimens also get caught completely by accident by deep-sea fishermen.
  1. Most scientists agree that the dwarf lantern shark counts as the smallest shark in the world.
  2. Females of the species tend to grow larger than males.
  3. The species falls under the family Etmopteridae in the order of Squaliformes.
  4. They also fall under the class Chondrichthyes and phylum Chordata of the Animal Kingdom.
  5. The species has no economic value.
Table of Contents

Dwarf lantern sharks have a distinctive appearance.

They have big, bulbous eyes, which help them see in the dark of the deep sea they live in. They also have short trunks, with two fins on top of their bodies, closely spaced to each other, and both with grooved spines in front. The second of the two fins also grows twice as big as the first, as well as the rest of the fish’s fins.

Dwarf lantern sharks also have small tails, slightly rounded with a notch below it. They also lack anal fins. Their scales have random patterns, though, dwarf lantern sharks tend to have a dark brown color with black markings along their lower bodies. Their tails also feature black bands and blotches.

They also simultaneously lay eggs and give birth to live young.

Scientists call this aplacental viviparous and involve the young growing inside the eggs. However, female dwarf lantern sharks don’t lay their eggs, and instead, keep them inside their bodies until they hatch. When that time comes, they then give birth to their young.

Scientists today actually still don’t know much about the breeding behavior of dwarf lantern sharks, and heavily rely on inferences based on studies of their relatives. This had led them to think dwarf lantern sharks give birth to 2 or 3 young at a time, which usually measure between 5.5 to 6 cm long at birth.

Dwarf lantern sharks have a more well-known relative, the velvet belly lantern shark.

They get their name from the velvet black color of their lower bodies, but generally have the same appearance as their cousins. That said, they do grow bigger than dwarf lantern sharks, at up to 45 cm long, over twice as big. They’re also more common, living in the Atlantic Ocean from Iceland and Norway in the north, to Gabon and South Africa in the south.

They also live deep in the ocean, at depths of up to 2.4 km under the surface, which forces the sharks to evolve resistance to high concentrations of heavy metals in the water at those depths. This species also has a reputation for having large numbers of parasites in their bodies.

velvet belly lanternshark
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Fringe fin lantern sharks also count as another, more well-known relative of theirs.

They get their names from distinctive filaments running along the fringes of their fins. Fringe fin lantern sharks grow bigger than dwarf lantern sharks, but not by much, only up to 30 cm long. That said, they seem to have a bigger range, living in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida, Texas, and Mexico.

Fringe fin lantern sharks live in deep waters, up to 900 meters under the surface, which makes it difficult to study them. This, however, has not protected them from environmental issues which affect the heavily developed waters of their home. Evidence proves short, but what exists points to the species badly affected by oil spills in the region, such as in 2010.

Dwarf Lantern Shark Facts, Etmopterus schultzi
Photo by NOAA Photo Library from Wikipedia

The same goes for their relationship with brown lantern sharks.

As their name implies, they have brown bodies, completely lacking any markings to break up the color. They also have the widest range out of the dwarf lantern shark’s relatives, living across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in depths of up to 300 meters under the surface.

In the Pacific Ocean, they live off the coasts of Australia and Japan, and in the Atlantic Ocean, off the South African coast. They also give birth to the most young at a time, with up to 18 baby sharks from a single mating pair. They also grow to become the biggest of their kind, up to 75 cm long, or over three times the dwarf lantern shark’s size.

Apart from those, they also have several other relatives.

These include the Caribbean lantern shark, which lives in depths of up to 720 meters across the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also the broadbanded lantern shark, which lives in depths of up to one kilometer under the surface. They also have a very specific habitat, between the latitudes of 40° north and 45° south in the Atlantic Ocean.

And then we have the combtoothed lantern shark, which lives in the South China Sea at depths of nearly 700 meters under the surface. It gets its name from its needle-like scales, which have a distinctive, irregular arrangement similar to a comb.

They only live in certain parts of the world and the ocean.

Like its relatives, the dwarf lantern shark lives only in a very specific habitat in the world. Specifically, the Caribbean Sea, off the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela, and between the islands of Grenada and Los Testigos. There, they live in depths of over 400 meters under the sea.

Dwarf lantern sharks hunt differently from other sharks.

They have evolved this behavior in response to the deep waters where they live in, which only receive a little light from the surface. For that reason, dwarf lantern sharks have photophores or organs which produce light, along their lower bodies. They use that light much like how an anglerfish does, drawing prey to it for them to feed on. They share this ability with their cousins, and it makes them unique among sharks, in general.

Dwarf lantern Sharks also possess a form of natural camouflage.

Dwarf lantern sharks have chromatophores on their lower bodies, which are made up of cells with the ability to change color at will. They use this ability to hide from predators, especially those looking from below. The chromatophores let the sharks blend in with the dim light from above, making them hard to see. And while they don’t have chromatophores on their upper bodies, they already have dark-colored bodies. This makes them difficult to see for predators looking down from above, as they blend in with the darkness below.

Dwarf lantern sharks have a complicated conservation status.

Most publications class the species as data deficient, meaning there isn’t enough information to go on to make a proper decision. However, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the species as of least concern. At the same time, they note how fishermen tend to catch specimens entirely by accident. Together with the lack of information about the species, scientists still aren’t entirely sure about the future of the dwarf lantern sharks.