In Images: Glowing is Widespread in Marine Fishes

This ceratioid anglerfish has a built-in fishing rod, a modified fin spine topped with a lure that pulses with bacterial light. (Image credit: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje)

Flashlight fish

(Image credit: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje)

A flashlight fish from the genus Anomalops, which has pockets under its eyes that are filled with bioluminescent bacteria.

Read the full story about bioluminescence in marine fishes

Barbeled dragonfish

(Image credit: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje)

Barbeled dragonfish are bioluminescent deep-sea fish with a long protrusion — known as a barbel — attached to their chins and tipped with a light-producing organ called a photophore.

Loosejaw dragonfish

(Image credit: Rene Martin)

A recently collected loosejaw dragonfish (Malacosteinae) with bioluminescent eye organs.

Flashlight fish photophore

(Image credit: Matt Davis)

Close-up of the bioluminescent light organ (white patch) in a splitfin flashlight fish (Anomalops katoptron).

Glowing light organ

(Image credit: Matt Davis)

A splitfin flashlight fish (Anomalops katoptron) glowing as it swims in an aquarium.


(Image credit: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje)

Gonostoma is a genus of bristlemouth, the most abundant vertebrates on Earth. Bristlemouths have light organs on their bellies, which break up the silhouette of the fish’s body to predators below and serves as a sort of camouflage.

Read the full story about bioluminescence in marine fishes

Black-belly dragonfish

(Image credit: Matt Davis)

A recently collected black-belly dragonfish (Stomias atriventer) with a bioluminescent chin barbel.

Collecting bioluminescent fish

(Image credit: Kirsten Jensen)

Scientific and technical crew of the research vehicle "Robert Gordon Sproul," bringing the Isaacs-Kidd midwater trawl on board after a four-hour tow through the deep sea.

Deep-sea hatchetfish

(Image credit: Rene Martin)

A recently collected deep-sea hatchetfish (Sternoptyx) with bioluminescent ventral organs.


(Image credit: Leo Smith)

Black-belly dragonfish (Stomias atriventer) collected in a midwater trawl at a depth of 600 meters.


(Image credit: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje)

The deep-sea hatchetfish, which gets its name from the distinct hatchet-like shape of its body, has light-producing organs known as photophores that run along the length of its body and point downward. Hatchetfishes use these structurally complex photophores to mimic any down-welling sunlight and disappear from predators lurking below.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.  Her book "Rise of the Zombie Bugs: The Surprising Science of Parasitic Mind Control" will be published in spring 2025 by Johns Hopkins University Press.