Acanthidium molleri IA.5816 Click to enlarge image
Junior synonym (2004) Etmopterus molleri. A larger tiff version of this file is available. Image: Mark Allen
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification


Moller's Lanternshark Etmopterus molleri, is a deepwater shark found in the Southwest Pacific.

Etmopterus molleri is a species of shark from the family Etmopteridae, which is the largest family in the order Squaliformes. There are considered to be 46 species found worldwide in five genera. In Australia 12 species are known from the Centroscyllium (1) and Etmopterus (11) genera. Moller's Lantershark was recognised and described as a new species by Australian Museum Ichthyologist, Gilbert Whitley in 1939.

Lanternsharks are named as such because they can bioluminesce.

Moller's Lantershark,  Etmopterus molleri
I.44904-001 - Etmopterus molleri 2 Image: Mark McGrouther
© Ichthyology

Etmopterus molleri, Moller's Lanternshark
I.15970-006 - Etmopterus molleri Image: Kerryn Parkinson
© Ichthyology


Moller's Lanternsharks have a fusiform (tapering at both ends; spindle-shaped) body, are slender and have a long caudal peduncle. The snout is short, eyes large, and the second dorsal fin is about twice the size of the first dorsal fin. Both dorsal fins have spines.

Generally, Moller's Lanternsharks are light brown dorsally and darker brown fading to black ventrally. The upper caudal fin tip is dark, usually with a pale strip extending from the pectoral fin to the pelvic fins.

Lanternsharks are very special fish as they can bioluminesce. This means they can produce and emit their own light. Lanternsharks, use their hormonally-controlled photogenic organs, called photophores, for bioluminescent signaling or to disguise their sillouette in the water column when viewed from below, a common pelagic camouflage tactic called “counter illumination”. They typically have bioluminescent flank markings (between the pectoral and pelvic fins).

Moller's Lanternshark, Etmopterus molleri
I.44904-001 - Etmopterus molleri Image: Mark McGrouther
© Ichthyology

IA.5816 - Etmopterus molleri
Image: Mark McGrouther
© Australian Museum

Habitat & Biology

Moller’s Lanternshark has been recorded on the outer continental and insular shelves, and upper slopes at depths of 238 to 655 m. Thought to be born at around 15cm and maximum size is approximately 46 cm total length (TL). Little else is known of the biology of these fishes.

Moller's Lantershark, Etmopterus molleri
I.44992-001 - Etmopterus molleri Image: Amanda Hay
© Ichthyology


Moller's Lanternshark has been found along eastern Australia off Sydney, New South Wales and New Zealand. They are found on the outer continental, insular shelves and upper slopes of the ocean from depths of 238 to 700m.

Lanternsharks are generally not threatened by fishing activities as they are small and have no commercial value. However, the Moller’s Lanternshark is likely taken as bycatch in deepwater trawl fisheries off eastern Australia. They are harmless to humans.

Moller's Lantershark,  Etmopterus molleri
I.44904-001 - Etmopterus molleri 2 Image: Mark McGrouther
© Ichthyology


Claes JM, Partridge JC, Hart NS, Garza-Gisholt E, Ho H-C, Mallefet J, et al. (2014) Photon Hunting in the Twilight Zone: Visual Features of Mesopelagic Bioluminescent Sharks. PLoS ONE 9(8): e104213.

Ebert, D.A., Fowler, S. and Compagno, L. 2013. Sharks of the World. Wild Nature Press, Plymouth.

Etmopterus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 May 2022,

Last, P.R. and Stevens, J.D. 2009. Sharks and Rays of Australia. Second Edition. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Whitley, G.P. (1939) Studies in Ichthyology. No. 12. Records of the Australian Museum, 20(4), 264–277

Link to IUCN Page:

Link to page at Shark References: