The vast majority of species within the lanternshark genus Etmopterus harbour complex luminescent markings on their flanks, whose functional significance has long remained obscure. Recent studies, however, suggest these enigmatic photophore aggregations to play a role in intraspecific communication. Using visual modelling based on in vivo luminescence measurements from a common lanternshark species, we show that etmopterid flank markings can potentially work as a medium range signal for intraspecific detection/recognition. In addition, using molecular phylogenetic analyses, we demonstrate that the Etmopterus clade exhibits a greater than expected species richness given its age. This is not the case for other bioluminescent shark clades with no (or only few) species with flank markings. Our results therefore suggest that etmopterid flank markings may provide a way for reproductive isolation and hence may have facilitated speciation in the deep-sea.