the Legacy continues…………………….
Gregory R. Mann, Ph.D. {ret.}


“Alepisaurus ferox”

The Lancetfish, perhaps you’ve never heard of it? Perhaps you should have? Perhaps you’ve seen the recent viral images of a Lancetfish that washed up on the shores of North Carolina and are wondering if they’re real or not? Have you ever seen anything like that before? Lots of important questions. Perhaps this can answer some of them for you, providing facts, images and something along the lines of a warning. Looking something like a “lance”, the predatory fishes are actually not as uncommon as one might assume despite the fact that they look perhaps quite a bit like one of those strange deep-sea fish that you sometimes hear interesting things about. While Lancetfish may not be all that uncommon, they are rather strange, not that much is known about them and they represent the only still surviving genus Alepisaurus in the family Alepisauridae. There’s really not all that much else known about them although the two currently recognized species are distributed worldwide with the only oceans that they’re not found in are the polar ones. They’re caught relatively often as by-catch when long-line fishing for tuna. The large mouths and sharp teeth that Lancetfish possess strongly suggest a predatory way of life but that’s not known for sure and some other findings seem to contradict that line of thought. 

For instance, the Lancetfish’s watery muscles don’t seem to be particularly well-suited to fast swimming and/or long pursuit so perhaps ambush predators. Which would make sense given their very narrow body profile and silvery coloration, allowing for some concealment of presence and hard to predict movement. It’s hard to say though until the behavior has actually been observed. Stomach content studies have found, largely, planktonic crustaceans, squid as well as other fish. Lancetfish also have been noted as being cannibalistic, interestingly. They in turn, are preyed upon by sharks, albacore, yellowfin tuna and fur seals. For those looking at these pictures and think “Mmmmmm”, I’ve got bad news for you. While the Lancetfish meat is certainly edible, it’s also very watery and gelatinous and probably not to everyone’s taste. Something else to note about them, they are fairly large — growing up to an average 6.6 feet in length. The generic scientific name literally means “without lizard”. A final note the reproductive life of the Lancetfish is more-or-less a mystery. Strangely, the gonads of the adolescents are hermaphroditic, but there’s been no evidence of hermaphroditism in the adults.