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Dwarf Lanternsharks - the Smallest Sharks in the World

Updated on July 24, 2012
Dwarf Lanternshark
Dwarf Lanternshark | Source
hand holding a dwarf lanternshark
hand holding a dwarf lanternshark

By by incredible twist of fate, the smallest sharks in the world, Dwarf Lanternsharks, are harmless krill eaters, just like whale sharks, the biggest sharks in the world.

A major difference is that while the huge whale shark grows to a massive 40 feet, the dwarf lanternshark barely reaches 6" in length, and weighs only 0.5 of an ounce.

They can grow up to just over 8", but are typically smaller. Like in most shark species, the females are larger than the males.

Only discovered in 1964, the dwarf lanternshark was named Etmopterus perryi in honour of noted shark expert of the time, biologist Perry W Gilbert.

Their heads take up almost a third of their bodies, and their eyes are huge in proportion to the rest of their bodies.

Their mouths are filled with 55 to 68 tiny teeth, perfectly designed for cutting and slicing. Their main diet, krill, are tiny crustaceans less than half an inch long.

Deep water sharks, they were first discovered by Ichthyologists Stewart Springer and George H. Burgess while they were trawling for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in The Caribbean Sea off Columbia.

Dwarf lanternsharks have to date only been found in a very small area of the Caribbean Sea off South America.

Velver belly lanternshark glowing with bio-luminescence
Velver belly lanternshark glowing with bio-luminescence | Source

A member of the dogfish family, they have been found at depths varying between 1000 - 1,500 feet deep, which is in the range of the lowest limits where sunlight reaches.

At 2000 feet deep, all is total darkness as sunlight does not penetrate.

Dwarf lanternsharks have bio-luminescent properties, like 90% of all deep sea creatures.

They have an impressive array of photophores, mainly on their undersides.

Many deepwater fish glow in the dark - some to attract prey and some to repel predators.

Not much is known about the rare dwarf lanternsharks, but it is believed their bioluminescence is there to protect them from deeper water predators.

While you might think the light would make them stand out, in effect it does the opposite because any sunlight filtering through the deep waters is above them. A predator looking up from below is less likely to see them.


Dwarf lanternshark reproduction

Dwarf lanternsharks reproduce by aplacental viviparity, generally giving birth to only 2 - 3 pups at a time.

While this a very low rate of reproduction for a fish, nothing is actually known about the scarcity or otherwise of dwarf lanternsharks.

While they are occasional dredged up as a by-catch by commercial deep sea fisheries, they are discarded as their size makes them of no commercial value.

They live at such great depths, they are hardly seen by man unless they are accidentally fished out of the waters.

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    • profile image

      my name is EPIC 20 months ago

      great info. lots of help for my report. no plagery* I swear to god

      * is that how you spell it. . . .I don't think so *

    • profile image

      gggg 2 years ago

      cool

    • sharkfacts profile image
      Author

      sharkfacts 5 years ago from UK

      Perhaps not LOL When I start dreaming of sharks, I stop writing about them for a few days and it goes away.

    • profile image

      Milli Thornton 5 years ago

      I took a quick look at the frilled shark Hub - and, you're right, they are uuuuugly.

      Had a nightmare about a huge shark last night after reading your Hub about the shark attacks at Second Beach in South Africa. I'd better not read this stuff before bed-time anymore!

    • sharkfacts profile image
      Author

      sharkfacts 5 years ago from UK

      Yet they are not the oldest sharks in the world. Frilled sharks have been n Earth, virtually unchanged for up to 150 million years! They are ugly critturs too - https://hubpages.com/education/Frilled-Sharks - wouldn't want to meet one of them on a dark night!

    • profile image

      Milli Thornton 5 years ago

      I wish tiny and cute was enough to help me get over my fear of sharks! These are almost like museum pieces . . . hard to believe they're real.

    • sharkfacts profile image
      Author

      sharkfacts 5 years ago from UK

      Not to mention tiny! These little shark should help everyone get over their fear of sharks! Thanks for commenting :)

    • profile image

      Milli Thornton 5 years ago

      I had never heard of the dwarf lanternshark until now. This was fascinating to read and see the photos.

      They seem quite mysterious and almost magical . . . glowing in the dark and rarely seen by man.

    • sharkfacts profile image
      Author

      sharkfacts 5 years ago from UK

      Theyare almost cute, aren't they? Thanks for the vote :)

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Wow, crazy. What interesting creatures.

      Thank you for sharing a most informative Hub. Voted up for interesting

    • sharkfacts profile image
      Author

      sharkfacts 5 years ago from UK

      If you placed Mount Everest in the deepest trench in the world's oceans, its peak would still be more than a mile below the surface. There must be many more creatures down there still to be discovered, but we may never see them, because man cannot take the tremendous pressure. Not yet anyway...

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      I had never heard of these small sharks before, so thank you for all the great information. Makes you wonder how many marine species there are still to be discovered in the deep oceans?