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Shining Examples: 10 Bioluminescent Creatures that Glow in Surprising Ways [Slide Show]

A wide range of organisms generate their own light to seek mates, sustenance and survival--inspiring researchers and moviemakers alike

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BONUS: LUMINOUS BEINGS ARE WE?

No mammals have been shown to produce bioluminescence—at least in an intended, substrate-and-enzyme-based visual display like fireflies and many denizens of the deep—and humans are no exception.....[ More ]

UNDERWATER "NIGHT VISION"

Most oceanic creatures bioluminesce in blue—and to a lesser extent green—because these short wavelengths of light travel farther in water than longer, redder wavelengths. For the same reason, sea life has adapted to register these colors and often does not possess the visual pigments needed to see reds, oranges and yellows.....[ More ]

SPARKLING SLIME

Dozens of earthworm species from all over the world can secrete a glowing slime, thought to startle predators. This particular worm, Diplocardia longa , is found in sandy soils in southern Georgia in the U.S.....[ More ]

PHOTONIC CAMOUFLAGE

Even in ocean depths where sunlight barely penetrates, the faint silhouette that a fish throws to predators beneath it in the water column can make it an easy target. Accordingly, many fish, crustaceans and squid have developed bioluminescent "counterillumination" abilities.....[ More ]

FLY FISHING--WITH A FLASHLIGHT

Before a short adult life as a gnat, larvae in the genus Arachnocampa spend months as carnivorous glowworms in caves or sheltered areas using light as a lure. In the top image, a hungry New Zealand glowworm, Arachnocampa luminosa , lays a trap.....[ More ]

BLUE TIDE

When plankton called dinoflagellates grow too numerous near shore, the single-celled algae can stain the water a reddish-brown, causing so-called red tides that are often toxic to people and fish alike.....[ More ]

EFFULGENT FUNGI

Mushrooms gleam in forests all over the world, from the Mycena lucentipes species seen here, described in Brazil last year, to the honey and jack o' lantern mushrooms that emit a greenish "fox fire" glow in woodlands.....[ More ]

GELATINOUS GLOW

Comb jellies, technically known as ctenophores, are a phylum of seafaring organism characterized by their use of small hairs, or cilia, for aquatic locomotion. Almost all of these blobby beings also bioluminesce, and they provide yet another example of defensive lighting with so-called "sacrificial tags".....[ More ]

BOMBS AWAY!

A paper published in Science this August made waves when it announced the discovery of five previously unknown species of sea worm that launch liquid-filled, bioluminescent capsules that burst into green light for several seconds.....[ More ]

KILLUMINATION

Hundreds of meters down in deep, pitch-black ocean waters, monstrous-looking anglerfish wave about bioluminescent lures, called esca , to temp prey into swimming within striking distance. Like fireflies, these common deepwater fish may use the lighting effects in mate selection, as well.....[ More ]

FLYING WITH FIRE

The power to make its own light distinguishes the life—and death—of the familiar firefly. Also commonly called lightning bugs, these species have developed unique call-and-response patterns of flashes between courting, airborne males and the females that watch from leafy perches.....[ More ]

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