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:
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!
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!
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.
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.