Have you ever captured a glowing firefly? On a warm summer evening, a firefly’s light seems rare and magical. Yet the tree of life is spangled with organisms that blink, glow, flash, and glitter. Welcome to the world of bioluminescence—the generation of light by living things.
The Creatures of Light is now at the museum! I had a great time check out the exhibits. You have to see it for yourself! A perfect date event or family time 🙂 Eighty percent of all known bioluminescent groups inhabit the world’s oceans. At certain depths, nearly all organisms glow. On land, things are quite different. There are bioluminescent fungi and insects, but no flowering plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, or mammals that glow.
Fluorescent compounds may help corals survive, but the role they play is not yet well understood. Researchers are still studying these animals to find out more, but have suggested a few intriguing possibilities:
Fluorescent molecules may serve as a sunscreen, protecting corals and the dinoflagellates that live inside them by filtering out harmful ultraviolet rays.
Injured corals often form colorful patches. These colorful spots are also areas where the coral is making fluorescent molecules that act as antioxidants, capturing toxic oxygen radicals that threaten to damage cells.
Corals glow by absorbing and re-emitting light from the Sun. We can’t detect their fluorescence in bright sunlight, but it’s possible that some animals can. Many corals glow around the mouth and tentacles, and might use their light to attract prey.