Panama Lightfish

Panama Lightfish, Vinciguerria lucetia

The Panama Lightfish, Vincignerria lucetia, whose common Spanish name is pez portador de luces, is a member of the Lightfish or Phosichthyidae Family, known collectively as peces luminoso in Mexico. This fish was named after the Italian ichthyologist Decio Vinciguerria. There are five global members of the genus Vinciguerria, one is found in Mexican waters of the Atlantic, one in the Pacific and two in both oceans. They make up for their small size by their abundant numbers with Vinciguerria Sp. are thought to be the most abundant species of vertebrates globally.

The Panama Lightfish have elongated slender laterally compressed rectangular bodies. They are black dorsally and ventrally and have a silver stripe on their sides. They have a dark spot on the tip of their tail. Their fins are transparent. Their head is large and has a conical pointed snout, large eyes, and a very small terminal mouth. They have photophores on their head and two lateral rows of pearly photophores on their body. Their anal fin is below the dorsal fin with 13 to 17 rays; their caudal fin is deeply forked; their dorsal fin has a short base with 13 to 16 rays; and their pectoral fins are set low on the body. They have no spines.

The Panama Lightfish are found in the mesopelagic and bathypelagic zones from the ocean’s surface to depths up to 14,000 feet. They reach a maximum length of 6.0 cm (2.4 inches). They migrate vertically toward the surface at night to feed on zooplankton, then retreat toward the bottom at night to avoid predation. They are heavily preyed upon by numerous marine fish and mammals. Reproduction is oviparous with pelagic planktonic eggs and larvae. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. Deep sea trawls in the Humboldt Current in the southeast Pacific have found that Lightfish make up 85% of the mass of mesopelagic fish with Vinciguerria lucetia being by far the most numerous species. They have a lifespan of three years. Although common, they are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Panama Lightfish are found in all waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific.

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

Panama Lightfish, Vinciguerria lucetia. Fish collected off the beach at Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, April 2009. Length: 4.0 cm (1.6 inches). Identification courtesy of Cindy Klepadio, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA.

Panama Lightfish, Vinciguerria lucetia. Fish regurgitated by a 25-cm Highfin Sand Perch, Diplectrum labarum, caught off Point Palmilla, January 2016. Length: 4.0 cm (1.6 inches).