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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
Mindy Weisberger is a senior writer for Live Science covering general science topics, especially those relating to brains, bodies, and behaviors in humans and other animals — living and extinct. Mindy studied filmmaking at Columbia University; her videos about dinosaurs, biodiversity, human origins, evolution, and astrophysics appear in the American Museum of Natural History, on YouTube, and in museums and science centers worldwide. Follow Mindy on Twitter.