Natural lantern

Natural lantern

by andrea cortes on October 04, 2021 Categories: Blog

[Leer en español]

Have you ever heard of glow-in-the-dark animals? This is a relatively rare but wonderful chemical reaction that involves the emission of light known as bioluminescence.

A well-known case is that of bioluminescent fungi that Aristotle documented. The Neonothopanus nambi fungus appears most common during the day but shows a green luminescence at night. We now know that like fireflies, these mushrooms have luciferin, which is oxidized by an enzyme called luciferase to emit light.

Since light can have two roles: a photon is absorbed or released. This type of excitation can occur in several ways, including X-rays, ultraviolet, visible, or even ultrasound.

Bioluminescence is a relatively rare phenomenon in nature that occurs from fungi to bacteria, worms, insects and mammals. I will tell you some examples of these brilliant animals.

An interesting fact is that the luminescent organisms in the water are marine, apparently this luminescence process is not compatible with fresh water.

In a bay like Jamaica, the famous Oyster Bay, a tourist attraction is the blue bioluminescence of Pyrodinium bahamense, a dinoflagellate single-celled organism that grows there and glows when the tide turns.

There are mammals that have this natural lantern, for example, opossums or the laying duck-billed mammal, the wombat and the Tasmanian devil.

We all wonder why these animals light up. Some researchers have shown that bioluminescence can be used to attract prey and feed, to find mates, or even as a defense.

Light show
An example of bioluminescence as an adaptation to defend itself is that of the vampire squid, which coexists with bioluminescent bacteria that make each of its tentacle’s glow in the dark in order to distract its predators.

Speaking of defense, there are glowing insects that have bioluminescence in the blue and green range as a warning that they are "toxic." In addition, this substance is sticky, in such a way that they trap their prey that are attracted by light. When you see these incandescent worms, which are insects named Luminous Arachnocampa on the trees, you will undoubtedly think that they are authentic Christmas lights. Although you will be surprised to know that the special ingredient these worms produce to take the form of lights is urea.

We hope you enjoyed reading and learned something about the wonderful world of glowing animals.
If you are interested in knowing more about a topic, do not hesitate to write to us and we will prepare it for you.

Recommended links:
To learn about more bioluminescent animals

About the glowing worms

Do not miss out on seeing a bioluminescent worm

To Sándor Dezső for his contribution in compiling the information presented.