Panama Lanternfish

Panama Lanternfish, Benthosema panamense

The Panama Lanternfish, Benthosema panamense, whose common Spanish name is linternilla panameña, is a member of the Lanternfish or Myctophidae Family, known collectively as linternillas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Lamp Fish. Globally, there are five species in the genus Benthosema, one of which is found in Mexican waters, this one from the Pacific.

The Panama Lanternfish have long rectangular bodies that taper toward the posterior end. They are reddish-brown with silvery patches. Their anal, caudal, and dorsal fins are transparent. Their head has a very short blocky snout, large eyes, and a large mouth that extends well past the eyes. They have a limited number of randomly positioned photophores on their body and a prominent row of photophores ventrally. Their anal fin has 19 to 22 rays and their dorsal fin has 12 to 14 rays. They have no spines.

The Panama Lanternfish are an epipelagic and mesopelagic species found in dense aggregations near the coast at night from the surface to depths up to 3,300 feet. They reach a maximum length of 5.5 cm (2.2 inches). They migrate vertically toward the surface at night to feed on zooplankton, then retreat toward the bottom at night to avoid predation. They can be attracted by lights at night and collected with dip nets. They are heavily preyed upon by numerous marine fish and mammals. Reproduction is oviparous with pelagic planktonic eggs and larvae. Although common, they are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Panama Langternfish are found from Guerrero Negro southward along the central and southwest coasts of Baja, in the lower two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez, and along the west coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Panama Lanternfish are seldom seen by humans. Due to their small stature, they are of limited interest to most.

Panama Lanternfish, Benthosema panamense. Fish collected within the Puerto Los Cabos Marina, Baja California Sur, April 2009. Length: 6.0 cm (2.3 inches). Catch courtesy of Eric Brictson, Gordo Bank Pangas, La Playita, Baja California Sur. Identification courtesy of H.J. Walker, Jr., Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Panama Lanternfish, Benthosema panamense. Fish provided by a Star-studded Grouper, Hyporthodus niphobles, caught out of 300-foot water off Loreto, Baja California Sur, May, 2017. Length: 6.2 cm (2.4 inches).