Tiny shark with large eyes and striking black marks

The African lanternshark (Etmopterus polli) is a shark belonging to the family Etmopteridae found in the eastern Atlantic. It is dwarf in size.


Family: Etmopteridae – Lantern Sharks

Genus: Etmopterus 

Species: polli


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles



Common NameDogfish Sharks

Family– Etmopteridae

Common NameLantern Sharks




Average Size and Length: The maximum recorded length has been 24 cm/ 9.4 inches.

Current Rare Mythical Sightings: Holotype: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard, MCZ 38001, adult or adolescent male, 197 mm. Type Locality: Northern Angola, 6°08’5,11°24’E, 350 to 380 m depth.

Teeth and Jaw: The upper teeth generally have less than 3 pairs of cusplets. The teeth in the upper jaw differ from the teeth in the lower jaw. The teeth in the lower are bigger and broader and best used for crushing.

Head: The distance from the snout tip to the first dorsal spine is equal or somewhat greater than the distance from the first dorsal spine to second dorsal rear tip. The head width is about equal to the preoral snout. The prespiracular length is slightly greater than the distance from the spiracles to the pectoral origins. The spiracle is 1/3 the eye length or less. The eyes are large, and closer to the tip of the snout than the first gill slit.

Denticles: The dermal denticles are wide-spaced. They are not arranged in rows on the sides or flanks above the pectoral fins. They cover the snout largely. The lateral trunk denticles have slender, hooked conical crowns. The distal margins of the fins are mostly covered with skin, not fringed with naked ceratotrichia.

Tail: The tail is long. The length of the dorsal caudal margin is about equal to the head length.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The African lanternshark can be found in the east Atlantic from Guinea to Angola. They may be found in the west Atlantic in Venezuela, but this is unconfirmed. They can be found on the upper continental slopes on or near the seabed between 985-3,281 feet.

Aesthetic Identification: The African lanternshark is dwarf in size. It has a stout body that is dark grey in color. The gill openings are short. The distance from the pelvic insertions to the ventral caudal origin is about as long as from the tip of the snout to the first gill openings. This is about equal to the distance between the pectoral and pelvic bases, and 1.3 times the interdorsal space. The distance between the pectoral and pelvic bases is moderately long in adults, slightly less than the head length. The origin of the first dorsal fin is opposite of the free rear tips of pectoral fins, the dorsal fin base is much closer to the pectoral fin bases than the pelvic fins. The interdorsal space is short and about as long as the distance from the snout tip to the spiracles. The second dorsal fin is about as large or slightly larger than the first dorsal fin. The distance between the second dorsal fin base and upper caudal origin is about equal to the interdorsal space. The ventral side under the snout and at the abdomen is blackish with an elongated broad black mark running ahead, above and behind the pelvic fins. There are more marks at the base and along the axis of the tail.

Biology and Reproduction: Presumably ovoviviparous.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Unknown.

African Lanternshark Future and Conservation: The African lanternshark is of minor interest to commercial fisheries. They are sometimes bycatch and sometimes used for food or fishmeal.

African Lanternshark Recorded Attacks on Humans: Not a threat to humans.