Dec 16

Our natural world is full of mystery and wonder and one of the most mysterious natural phenomenon of all is bioluminescence. We’ve just created a new topic page to celebrate and explore this amazing adaptation that some animals possess.

Bioluminescence is the process by which living organisms produce their own light. Some organisms have organs that contain all of the necessary ingredients for light production, whereas others form symbiotic relationships with bioluminescent bacteria which they keep captive within a specially adapted appendage.

Most bioluminescent organisms are found in the deep sea below depths of 1,000 metres. Beyond depths of 1,000 there is absolutely no light from the sun and it is completely dark, therefore animals living at this depth have evolved to be able to produce light. There are a small amount of land-living organisms that produce light too, but this ability is much rarer outside of the deep-sea.

Check out these amazing bioluminescent species:

1) Murray’s abyssal anglerfish

Huge, blade-like teeth? Check. Unforgiving, angry expression? Check. Heading straight for you? It certainly seems that way! Anglerfish are arguably some of the world’s ugliest and most ferocious-looking animals. The females have a rod-like appendage on the top of their head, the tip of which contains bioluminescent bacteria. This is used as a lure to attract prey towards it, before it opens its huge mouth and engulfs its prey.

2) Ghost fungus

Until very recently, scientists were unsure as to why certain fungi species had the ability to produce light. It has recently been proven that it is a way to help them spread their spores as insects are attracted to the light, and when they pass by the gills of the fungus they are covered in spores. They then continue their journey through the forest, spreading the fungus’s spores as they go – how clever!

3) Flashlight fish

With this species, the clue for why it produces light is in its name. Underneath its eyes, the flashlight fish has organs containing bioluminescent bacteria, which glow and help the fish to see in the dark and also attract intrigued prey towards them – a classic example of curiosity killed the cat!

4) Glow worm

Despite being called a worm, glow worms are actually beetles belonging to the Coleoptera order. Female glow worms use their bioluminescence to attract males that are passing by and let them know that they are receptive to mating.

5) Ostracods

Ostracods are small crustaceans thought to exist in practically all aquatic environments on Earth and there are known to be over 33,000 species. Those living in the deep-sea possess the ability to produce light and use it to avoid being eaten. When a fish eats an ostracod it will produce a bioluminescent fluid which causes the fish to spit it straight back out again. This then alerts the whereabouts of the fish to larger predators, which could cause its eventual demise!

 

Want to know more about bioluminescence? Check out our shiny new bioluminescence topic page.

Browse the new bioluminescent species on Arkive and marvel at their amazing light-producing skills.

Oct 14

Time for more ARKive A-Z’s, and in true alphabetical fashion, on we go with the D’s. It turns out that there are some rather extraordinary species names beginning with D – have you ever heard of the David Bowie spider? Or the death’s-head hawkmoth? How about dead man’s fingers? Why not see what other weird and wonderful names are hiding within ARKive’s D’s.

Dead man's fingers photo

Dead man's fingers is a colonial soft coral

…Darwin

Charles Darwin has to be one of the most famous biologists who ever lived so it is only fitting that he gets a mention in our blog of all things ‘D’. Darwin’s body of work, including his observations and meticulous notes from the voyage on the Beagle and his theory of evolution by natural selection, has led him to be recognised as the father of evolutionary biology. During his travels he discovered many species new to science, a number of which have been named in his honour, including the Darwin’s fox and the Darwin’s frog, both native to Chile.

For more about Darwin and his discoveries take a look at our educational resources.

Darwin's frog photo

Darwin's frog

…Dogs

Seeing as how we have already examined cats and all things Feline it seems only fair for dogs to get their moment in the spotlight. Dogs, or members of the Canidae family, can be found on every continent except Antarctica, and they vary in size and stature from the diminutive fennec fox to the imposing grey wolf. Members share a number of common characteristics including non-retractable claws and digitigrade movement, which simply put involves walking on their toes. Long legs and slender bodies are common amongst canines, an adaptation for catching prey, as seen here in the dhole, an Asian wild dog.

Photo of dholes resting

Dholes show a number of typically canine characteristics

…Dugong

Did you know that the dugong is the only entirely marine mammal that feeds exclusively on plants, or that they are actually more closely related to elephants than other marine mammals? Classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN dugongs were traditionally hunted for meat and oil. These gentle giants are still under increasing pressure from human activities such as fishing, marine traffic and pollution, threats accentuated due to the dugongs large size, low reproductive rate and dependence on coastal habitats. For more fascinating facts and gorgeous images of the dugong check out its ARKive species profile.

Photo of adult female dugong swimming with calf

Dugong swimming with calf

…Deserts

Instead of a country I have decided to look at a habitat type this time, one that takes up roughly a fifth of the Earth’s land surface; deserts. Many species have become specially adapted for life in deserts, such as the sand cat which has foot pads covered with thick hair to enable movement over hot sand. Camels are the iconic desert dweller and have a number of spectacular adaptations to their harsh habitat; a hump to store fat enabling them to go for long periods without food or water, narrow nostrils and dense eyelashes which can be tightly closed during sandstorms.

Photo of wild Bactrian camel standing in desert landscape

Wild Bactrian camels are well adapted to their desert habitat

What’s your favourite ARKive D? The dunlin, or maybe the diademed sifaka? How about the damara tern or the death cap? Let us know!

Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer

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