Panamic Flashlightfish

Panamic Flashlightfish, Phthanophaneron harveyi

The Panamic Flashlightfish, Phthanophaneron harveyi, whose common Spanish name is ojo de linterna panámica, is a species in the Flashlight or Anomalopidae Family, known as ojos de linterna in Mexico. Globally, there is only one species in the genus Phthanophaneron, this fish, which is found in Mexican waters of the Pacific. It was first reported in the scientific literature in 1976 and is extremely rare.

The Panamic Flashlightfish have oblong bodies. They are uniform blackish-brown in color without any distinctive markings. They have a prominent pearly white luminous organ under each eye (with light produced by symbiotic bacteria) that is equipped with a strange skin flap that can be raised and lowered to regulate the “blinking” light emission that attracts zooplankton. They have a large bony spine-laden head, a short blunt snout, large blue eyes, and an oblique mouth that opens in the front and extends to the rear margin of the eyes. Their anal fin has two spines and 10 rays and their caudal fin is deeply forked. They have two separate dorsal fins, the first with 4 spines and the second with one spine and 14 or 15 rays. Their body is covered with small rough scales; below the lateral line the scales are enlarged and some have blue spots.

The Panamic Flashlightfish are found from the surface to depths of 310 feet over and within rocky bottoms. They reach a maximum length of 26 cm (10 inches). They are believed to be vertical migrators following zooplankton toward the surface at night and returning to the depths and shelter in rocky caves during daylight. Reproduction is via pelagic eggs that are not guarded.

The Panamic Flashlightfish is very unique and cannot be confused with any other species.

In Mexican waters the Panamic Flashlightfish are found from Magdalena Bay southward along the southwest coast of Baja and in the Sea of Cortez, from Santa Rosalia southward along the central and southeast coasts of Baja.

The Panamic Flashlightfish is exceedingly rare, seldom seen by humans, and is of limited interest to most.

Panamic Flashlightfish (1)Panamic Flashlightfish (2)

Panamic Flashlightfish, Phthanophaneron harveyi. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, August 2010. Length: 20 cm (7.9 inches).