The life of the lanternfish (Family Myctophidae) is similar to that of most common deep sea fish - it doesn't grow very big (roughly 6 inches in adulthood), attracts food and mates using patches of bioluminescent bacteria on its skin, and migrates into shallower water at night to feed. The lanternfish has large eyes and a large head, the body tapering smoothly back to a small, forked tail.

A very common fish (there are over 200 species in existence), the lanternfish is found in all the oceans of the world at a depths of roughly 300 - 1000 metres. As with most deep sea creatures, the larvae hatch near the surface, and the fish goes deeper and deeper as it approaches adulthood. Not a commercially popular fish itself, the lanternfish nevertheless forms an essential part of the food chain, being a staple of the diets of larger fish such as bluefin tuna, hake and cod. The lanternfish itself feeds on smaller fish and copepods, including shrimp.

Obviously, the lanternfish gets its name from its bioluminescent photophores, which form distinctive patterns on its head and body. These photophores are used for communication as well as to attract smaller fish, and some biologists think they may also serve a camouflage purpose. At night, when lanternfish migrate to near the ocean surface, their dark backs make them invisible from above, while from below their glowing undersides make them hard to distinguish from the moonlit surface of the water. The nightly migration often takes place in large numbers, causing patches of the ocean to glow eerily.


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