Common name: Lanternsharks


Small to medium-sized bioluminescent sharks found in deep oceanic waters.
Lanternsharks are cylindrical in cross-section and have long snouts, two dorsal fins with a sharp spine at the front of each, tiny light organs usually along the belly and lower sides, large spiracles and a subterminal notch on the caudal fin. All species lack an anal fin.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Lanternsharks, ETMOPTERIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jul 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

The largest family in the order Squaliformes, with 46 species in five genera worldwide. Both genera and 12 species are known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

Free-swimming sharks found worldwide in the deeper oceanic waters, usually beyond the continental shelf.
Some species are pelagic in the midwaters, while others live near the bottom (benthopelagic) in depths of 50-4500 m. 

Family Size

Length range about 30 cm to 1 metre.

Family Reproduction

Lanternsharks give birth to litters (3-20 pups) of live young (viviparous).

Family Commercial

Most species are too small to be commercially important and are discarded as bycatch.

Family Conservation

Family Biology


Bray, D.J. 2017

Family Resources

Further information on Australian species can be found in White (2008) and Last & Stevens (2009).


Camhi, M.D., Valenti, S.V., Fordham, S.V., Fowler, S.L. & Gibson, C. 2009. The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays: Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group Pelagic Shark Red List Workshop. IUCN Species Survival Commission Shark Specialist Group. Newbury, UK. x + 78pp.

Claes JM, Partridge JC, Hart NS, Garza-Gisholt E, Ho H-C, Mallefet J, Collin SP. 2014. Photon Hunting in the Twilight Zone: Visual Features of Mesopelagic Bioluminescent Sharks. PLoS ONE 9(8): e104213. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104213 PDF available, open access

Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO Species Catalogue. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. Hexanchiformes to Lamniformes. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125. Rome : FAO Vol. 4(1) pp. 1-249.

Compagno, L.J.V., Dando, M. & Fowler, S. 2005. A Field Guide to the Sharks of the World. London : Collins 368 pp.

Garman, S. 1913. The Plagiostomia (sharks, skates and rays). Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University 36: 1-528 pls 1-77

Last, P.R. & Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Collingwood : CSIRO Publishing Australia 2, 550 pp.

Shirai, S. & Nakaya, K. 1990. Interrelationships of the Etmopterinae (Chondrichthys, Squaliformes). 347-356in Pratt, H.L. Jr, Gruber, S.H. & Taniuchi, T. Elasmobranchs as living resources: advances in the biology, ecology, systematics, and the status of the fisheries. NOAA Technical Report 90: 347-356

Straube, N, Igl├ęsias, S.P., Sellos, D.Y., Kriwet, J. & Schliewen, U.K. 2010. Molecular phylogeny and node time estimation of bioluminescent Lantern Sharks (Elasmobranchii: Etmopteridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56(3): 905-917. 

White, W. 2008. Shark Families Heterodontidae to Pristiophoridae. pp. 32-100 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.