What Is The Smallest Species Of Shark?

When you think of a shark you probably think of the king of the waters. Their serrated rows of teeth and beady eyes as they silently hunt down their next prey.

You don’t imagine a small marine animal the size of your palm. But you would be wrong.

What Is The Smallest Species Of Shark?

Sharks come in all shapes and sizes from the terrifying size of the Great White to the odd and wonderful shape of the Hammerhead.

However, small, tiny and cute are not words associated with the magnificent carnivore. Yet there is one shark which beats all stereotypes.

What is the smallest shark? Keep reading this article to find out everything you need to know about the smallest of the shark species!

What Is The Smallest Shark?

The smallest shark is the Dwarf Lantern Shark or its scientific name Etmopterus perry.

Discovered in 1985 in the Caribbean off the coast of Colombia this shark is small enough to fit in your hand.

With little knowledge about the shark it remains hidden and rarely seen at the northern tip of South America.

About The Dwarf Lantern Shark

The Dwarf Lantern features photophores, which are light-emitting organs, on its stomach and intestines.

As the light from his belly blends with the oncoming sunlight as he feeds in shallow water, these assist him in disguising himself.

In comparison to other sharks, he also has somewhat larger eyes, which aid him in seeing in the ocean’s murky waters.

The light draws smaller animals to their prey in the dark water.

Growing to only 20 cm in length this shark is truly the smallest shark in the world, preferring to live at depths of 280-440 meters.

The flattened head pattern, small size at maturity, black ventral markings, and middle dorsal line all serve to identify the dwarf lantern shark.

It is a bathypelagic species that has been sighted near the coastlines of Grenada, Los Testigos Island, Santa Marta, the Guajira Peninsula, and Barranquilla.

Much like most species of the world, there are differences between male and female dwarf lantern sharks.

Adult males have single tip teeth in between two pairs of small canines, on their upper jaw.

Whereas females teeth are larger and have a pair of lateral canines flanked by a single canine.

There are 25 to 32 teeth in a row in the upper jaw with 30 to 34 rows in the lower jaw. In other words, a lot of teeth for such a small creature.

The shark’s torso is short and divided in two.

Their large dorsal fin is home to a fluted spine which is placed in front. They have five pairs of gills, each growing slightly smaller than the last,

The pectoral fin’s back margin is where the first dorsal fin emerges.

The pelvic fin formed towards the end of the second dorsal fin, which is the region between the first and second fins and is marginally larger than the pectoral fin.

The upper lobe of the tail fin has a ventral notch at the tip, while the lower lobe is somewhat sized

Thin, needle-like skin marks cover the skin randomly from the lips to the tips of the fins. A little longer anal fin is also present.

Skin marks that resemble thin needles cover the skin.

Despite the shark’s dark brown color, its ventral side has a stunning and recognizable pattern of black marks, with a fine black line in the middle that is continually broken.

It has been documented that the largest dwarf lantern shark has grown to 21.2 cm long.

However, a dwarf lantern shark is more likely to reach its full size of 16-17 cm for a male and 15-20 cm for a female, when they reach full maturity.

How Do Dwarf Lantern Sharks Reproduce?

Like all shark species the female is the only gender to reproduce with the help of the male. Female dwarf lantern sharks give birth to 2-3 pups at a time.

Fishing For Dwarf Lantern Sharks

Although Dwarf Lantern sharks are not commonly caught in large-scale commercial fisheries, they are nevertheless at risk of dying from bycatch, and it is unknown how much human activity has affected shark populations.

More information on the biology and ecology of the Dwarf Lantern Shark is required in order to help their species grow.

Final Thoughts

Now you know that sharks aren’t only large, hunting beasts but rather small, hidden creatures.

The Dwarf Lantern Shark is the smallest of the shark species known to man and is an interesting creature.

Surviving on krill and often dying due to being hunted by larger prey or parasites.

This shark is a worthy addition to the shark family and is one of the most interesting as we know very little about it.

Mikayla Adams

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