Myctophiformes (Teleostei; Myctophiformes) is an extremely understudied Order of fishes, for three major reasons.
- Little is known about how myctophiform fishes are related at the species level, and even less is known about the biology of these fishes.
- Myctophiform fishes are remarkable among deep-sea taxa for possessing three different types of luminous structures, providing a clear system for investigating the links between phenotypic traits and differential diversification.
- Myctophiform fishes are well-represented as otoliths (and to a lesser extent, body fossils) worldwide, documenting extreme ecological abundance by the beginning of the Miocene, and indicating that these fishes play a critical role as a source of biomass in many food webs. This biomass is being investigated as a source for broad-scale human use.
Body photophores in these fishes are innervated by spinal nerves, and nearly all myctophiform fishes have charismatic and taxonomically informative body photophores that bioluminesce and appear a deep blue. The intraneuronal signaling molecule in this system is a nitric oxide (nNOS), and the enzyme responsible for this reaction is thought to be a (presently undescribed) luciferase.
The speciose genus Diaphus exhibits a “headlight” complex (left), and many myctophiform fishes also exhibit luminous “stern-chasers” that are frequently sexually dimorphic in presence/absence and/or in size.
My research focuses on resolving myctophiform intrarelationships with an eye toward understanding how these luminous traits have changed during, and how they have influenced, myctophiform evolution. My work is a synthetic combination of molecular phylogenetics, geometric morphometrics, and methods development.
Research and article by John S. S. Denton, an AIFRB member and a Herbert & Evelyn Axelrod Research Poctdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History.
I have worked on the systematics and evolutionary history of myctophiform fishes (lanternfishes and blackchins) and on methods for phylogenetic and macroevolutionary inference, and am currently a contributor to the NSF-funded Chondrichthyan Tree of Life (CTOL) project.