Ecomorphological adaptations to bioluminescence in Porichthys notatus

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The midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus, is a visually active nocturnal predator. It must acquire exogenous sources of luciferin to remain luminescent and feeds on a variety of luminescent prey. Its ecomorphological adaptations for nocturnal predation were examined by observing predation on zooplankton illuminated by dinoflagellates. Its visual sensitivity is well adapted for detection of its own luminescence and its prey's luminescence. P. notatus can detect the luminescence of dinoflagellates and use this indirect light to increase predation on nonluminescent prey. Flash frequency and duration modulated predation rates. The interval between flash onset and strike initiation regulated strike success. High prey concentration decreased predation success due to increased optical and mechanosensory noise. Other ecomorphological adaptations of this predator to its special photic environment include a pigmented digestive tract, duplex retina with the capacity to discriminate emission spectra, contractible pupil, and the potential to counter illuminate. These morphological adaptations combined with an ambush predator style allow effective predation while minimizing exposure risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-142
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995


  • Capture success
  • Dinoflagellates
  • Luminescence
  • Midshipman
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Teleost
  • Vision


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