Common name: Dragonfishes, lightfishes, hatchetfishes

A diverse, abundant and widespread group of small to medium-sized predatory fishes that inhabit epi-, meso- and bathypelagic zones of the ocean. All are bioluminescent, and have complex arrangements of light organs or photophores. The premaxilla and maxilla are included in the gape of the mouth and both bear teeth. Interrelationships of the order have not been resolved.

Dragonfishes produce bioluminescence through a biochemical reaction within their body cells (intrinsic bioluminescence), and use the light in many ways. Some, like the loosejaws (Malacosteinae) use flashlights near their eyes to find their food. Others, such as deep-sea anglerfishes, viperfishes (Chauliodus) and dragonfishes attract their prey with elaborate bioluminescent lures on the ends of fishing rods (modified dorsal-fin spines or chin barbels). Others might use lights to communicate with each other or to find a mate. 

Many mesopelagic fishes use rows of light organs along their undersides to camouflage  themselves (counterillumination). Remarkably, these fishes hide their silhouette from predators and prey by producing light that matches both the colour and intensity of downwelling sunlight.

Author: Dianne J. Bray

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Dragonfishes, STOMIIFORMES in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/order/49

Order References

Ahlstrom, E.H., W.J. Richards & S.H. Weitzman. 1984. Families Gonostomatidae, Sternoptychidae, and associated stomiiform groups: development and relationships, p. 184-198. In Moser H.G., W.J. Richards, D.M. Cohen, M.P. Fahay, A.W. Kendall, Jr. & S.L. Richardson (eds). Ontogeny and systematics of fishes. Am. Soc. Ichthyol. Herpetol. Spec. Publ. No. 1, 760 pp.

Harold, A.S. & S.H.Weitzman. 1996. Interrelationships of Stomiiform Fishes, pp. 333-353. In Stiassny, M.L.J., L.R. Parenti & G.D. Johnson (eds.) The Interrelationships of Fishes. Academic Press, London.

Kawaguchi, K. & H.G. Moser. 1984. Stomiatoidea: Development, p. 169-181. In Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. Am. Soc. Ichthyol. Herpetol. Spec. Publ. No. 1, 760 pp.

Richards, W.J. 2006. Ch. 15 Order Stomiiformes, p. 177. In W.J. Richards (ed). Early Stages Of Atlantic Fishes: An Identification Guide For The Western Central North Atlantic. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group, Boca Raton, FL, 2640 pp.