There are two recognized species of lancetfish, the Longnose and the Shortnose.  The Longnose Lancetfish is the only one found in Pacific waters.  These fish are often mistaken for barracudas, because the dorsal fin is almost always at least partially missing from specimens found on the beach.  They can be distinguished from barracudas by a few key features: unlike a barracuda, their lower jaw does not noticeably protrude past their upper jaw, and the caudal fin of the Lancetfish is not triangular.

 

 Lancetfish ID

Key identifying characteristics

 

1. Large fangs on upper jaw, small teeth and large canines on lower jaw

2. Upper jaw does not protrude (push out farther) past the lower jaw, or only protrudes very slightly

3. (When present) large sail-like dorsal fin

4. Narrow, angular caudal fin (tail fin)

Examples

 

 

A close up view of the head of a Longnose Lancetfish.  The head appears shriveled because it has been dead for  while.  Photo credit: Dr. William Hanshumaker.

A close up view of the head of a Longnose Lancetfish. The head appears shriveled because it has been dead for while. Photo credit: Dr. William Hanshumaker.

A lancetfish found a mile and a half north of Proposal Rock in Neskowin, OR.  Note the shoe in the upper half of the image as a size reference, and the large bite taken out of the tail.  Photo credit: John Forsythe

A lancetfish found a mile and a half north of Proposal Rock in Neskowin, OR. Note the shoe in the upper half of the image as a size reference, and the large bite taken out of the tail. Photo credit: John Forsythe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A close up of the head of a lancetfish stranded near Neskowin, OR.  The skin was torn open and the bright red gills are revealed.  Photo credit: John Forsythe.

A close up of the head of a lancetfish stranded near Neskowin, OR. The skin was torn open and the bright red gills are revealed. Photo credit: John Forsythe.

A Lancetfish that stranded on Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, New Zealand.  A large chunk is missing from the fish near the head.  Photo credit: Farewell Spit Eco Tours.

A Lancetfish that stranded on Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, New Zealand. A large chunk is missing from the fish near the head. Photo credit: Farewell Spit Eco Tours.