A new, stealthy jet-black glowing shark

The Ninja lanternshark (Etmopterus benchleyi) is a lantern shark belonging to the family Etmopteridae found in the eastern Pacific Ocean from Nicaragua, south to Panama and Costa Rica. The Ninja shark is jet black with its eyes and lips outlined in white, making it appear like a glowing ninja, for it has bioluminescent photophores allowing it to glow. The Ninja shark was discovered in 2010 and newly identified by Dr. Victoria Vásquez (Vicky) in 2015.


Family: Etmopteridae – Lantern Sharks

Genus: Etmopterus 

Species: benchleyi


Phylum– Chordata

Class– Chondrichthyles



Common NameDogfish Sharks

Family– Etmopteridae

Common NameLantern Sharks




Average Size and Length: The maximum recorded length of the male is 12.8 inches. The maximum length of the female is 1.7 feet long.

Current Rare Mythical Sightings: The Ninja lanternshark was described from eight specimens collected off the Pacific Coast of Central America during an expedition of the Spanish research ship Miguel Oliver by D. Ross Robertson, a researcher at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. One holotype and four paratypes were described and deposited with the United States National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. The holotype was discovered in 2010.

The Ninja shark was identified and named by shark researcher Vicky Vásquez. The specific name benchleyi derives from Peter Benchley, author of the 1974 novel Jaws that was used as a basis for Steven Spielberg’s film of the same name. The common name comes from Vicky’s 8-year-old cousins, suggesting “Super Ninja Shark”. Dr. Victoria Vásquez leads a team of marine biologists at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

Teeth and Jaw: The teeth in the upper and lower jaws differ. The teeth in the upper jaw are smaller, straight and they come to a point. They appear to have less than 3 cusplets. The teeth in the lower jaw are bigger and broader, and have a hooked point. The lower jaw contains between 30-36 teeth.

Head: The Ninja lanternshark has somewhat bulbous eyes with a green sheen that are much closer to the tipoff the snout than the first gill slit.

Denticles: The Ninja lanternshark is unique in that it has dense concentrations of dermal denticles closely surrounding the eyes and gill openings.

Demographic, Distribution, Habitat, Environment and Range: The Ninja lanternshark found in the eastern Pacific Ocean in central America from Nicaragua, south to Panama and Costa Rica. The depth range of the Ninja lanternshark is between 2,743-4,734 feet along the continental slope.

Aesthetic Identification: The Ninja lanternshark is black in color. The mouth and eyes of the Ninja lanternshark are lined in white. The Ninja lanternshark has bioluminescent photophores on the ventral side, aiding in counter illumination.

Biology and Reproduction: Unknown, but presumably ovoviviparous.

Behavioral Traits, Sensing and Intelligence: Unknown.

Ninja Lanternshark Future and Conservation: This shark is too new with very little data to evaluate.

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

Vásquez, V.E., Ebert, D.A. & Long, D.J. (2015). “Etmopterus benchleyi n. sp., a new lanternshark (Squaliformes: Etmopteridae) from the central eastern Pacific Ocean” (PDF). Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation. 17: 43–55.