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The Giant Flashlight Fish Mystery

Supplement to “Something to See” Aquarium Fish International magazine, August 2012, Vol. 24, No. 8.

By Jay Hemdal | May 30, 2012

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Most flashlight fish species are reported to reach a maximum size of about 4.5 inches. However, Fishbase.org (an online fish database) lists a maximum size of 13.75 inches for Anomalops katoptron. Despite this size record, I have observed that even after a decade of growth, this species does not grow larger than 4 inches in captivity. One very large flashlight fish was shipped from the Cook Islands to an importer and then to the Toledo Zoo, but it was dead on arrival, and its body was not retained. By my recollection, this fish was about 8 inches long. It is possible that it was actually a different recently described species, Protoblepharon rosenblatti (Baldwin et. al., 1997). Protoblepharon rosenblatti was described on the basis of one specimen collected in the Cook Islands that was 9 inches long and was collected at a depth of 900 feet using hook and line. Could juveniles of this species occasionally stray into shallower water and be collected along with Anomalops?

One researcher (McCosker, 1987) speculates on the issue of the “giant Anomalops.” He states that such a size differential between shallow and deep-water forms is “without parallel.” But he seems to conclude that the large and small forms are the same species. His paper precedes Baldwin’s by 10 years, and he did not have access to the captive growth information mentioned earlier, so it is still possible that the deep- and shallow-water forms comprise separate species.

 

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