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July Elasmobranch of the Month: Dwarf Lantern shark

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

Author: Linda Weiss

Dwarf Lantern

(Etmopterus perryi)

Key Features/Appearance

The Dwarf Lantern shark is currently the smallest known shark species. It only reaches a maximum length of 20 cm (7.9 inches) and weighs less than .9 kg (2 pounds). Its body is dark brown, and like many deep-sea animals, it has the ability to “glow in the dark”. The skin along its fins and belly contains light producing photophores. Its head is wide, long and flat with large eyes. Its dorsal fins are relatively the same size and its pectoral fins are fairly broad. This shark has no anal fin and its caudal (tail) fin has a significantly longer upper lobe. This shark’s upper jaw contains 25-35 rows of multi-cusped, dagger shaped teeth while the lower jaw holds 30 plus rows of sickle-shaped teeth.

Habitat and Distribution

Little is known about the life of the Dwarf Lantern shark. It is a deep-sea species, inhabiting the bathypelagic zone at depths of 1,000 - 3,000 m (3,300 – 9,800 feet). It has been found in the Caribbean Sea off the coasts of Venezuela and Columbia and in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands. More research is needed to determine full range.


The Dwarf Lantern shark feeds on shrimp and small fish. It is theorized that the shark uses its bioluminescence to attract its prey.


Dwarf Lantern sharks reproduce ovoviviparously, where the embryos develop inside the mother, nourished from yolk sacs. A mother gives birth to 2-3 live pups, who measure roughly 6.0 cm (2.4 in) long.


The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists the Dwarf Lantern shark as Data Deficient.


This shark species is not targeted by either the commercial or sport fishing industries, though it may be killed as bycatch on commercial fishing vessels.

Dwarf lanternshark © Chip Clark/Smithsonian Institution


National Geographic


Smithsonian Ocean

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Leandro, L. 2006. Etmopterus perryi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2006: e.T60240A12332635. Downloaded on 12 July 2020.

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