7 Characteristics of bioluminescent

Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction in living organisms that leads them to produce their own light. Some bioluminescent animals are wormwoods (Lampyridae family), Quantula striata stocol, plted pltines (Centrophryne spinulosa), railway worm (Phrixothrix hirtus), vampire calamar (Vampyroteuthis infernalis), bioluminiscent medusa (Pelagia noctiluca).

Light is not only a physical phenomenon, but there are certain animals capable of producing their own light, which is known as bioluminescence. Much of the animals that are bioluminescent are in the seas and oceans, but there are some on land as well.

There are no fresh water, and there are no mammals, reptiles, birds or bioluminescent amphibians. The study of those organisms that are capable of this surprising capacity has been of enormous interest because it can have biotech applications for the production of tissue bioimages, functioning as markers to know processes in living organisms.

If you would like to know how it is possible for an animal to make light, we invite you to continue reading this article about what bioluminesscence is and the animals that have it.

What is bioluminescence

Bioluminescence is the light that certain organisms emit, from a chemical reaction. The process requires the luciferin compound, which is rusty and produces oxylucisin and light, and an enzyme that catalyzes the reaction, which in the largest case is usually luciferase, or some other photoprotein. Thus, when the luciferin interacts with the luciferase, the light is emitted.

It is particularly visible at night by contrast to the darkness. The function of bioluminescence can be as a defense against predators, to communicate with each other, to obtain food, or even to camouflage with the flashes that the water would emit to go unnoticed.

The color of light varies from species to species by structural modifications in the luciferase, and the area capable of carrying out the reaction is also different.

Characteristics of bioluminescent

Bioluminescence is a fascinating phenomenon found in various organisms, including some marine animals, insects, fungi, and bacteria. Here are some key characteristics of bioluminescence:

  1. Light Production: Bioluminescent organisms have the ability to produce light through a chemical reaction. This process involves the interaction between a light-emitting molecule called a luciferin, an enzyme called a luciferase, and often an energy source such as ATP. When these components react, they release energy in the form of light.
  2. Diversity: Bioluminescence is found across a wide range of organisms. For example, some marine organisms like the anglerfish and firefly squid use bioluminescence for communication, attracting prey, or mate recognition. Fireflies, glowworms, and certain beetles are known for their bioluminescent displays during mating rituals. Bioluminescent fungi and bacteria can be found in forests, caves, and even in the digestive systems of animals.
  3. Colors and Patterns: Bioluminescent light can vary in color, ranging from blue and green to red and yellow. Different organisms produce light of different wavelengths, giving rise to a diverse array of colors. Some organisms can even produce patterns or flashes of light, which can be used for signaling purposes.
  4. Regulation: Bioluminescence is often regulated by the organism’s biological clock or circadian rhythm. Many bioluminescent organisms exhibit a rhythmic pattern of light emission, with peaks and troughs occurring at specific times of the day or night.
  5. Energy Efficiency: Bioluminescence is an efficient process compared to other forms of light production. The chemical reaction that produces light is highly efficient, with minimal energy loss as heat. This energy efficiency is beneficial for organisms living in environments where light is scarce or where the emission of heat could be detrimental.
  6. Evolutionary Advantage: Bioluminescence provides various advantages to organisms. It can be used for attracting mates, attracting prey, confusing or deterring predators, or communication within a species. For example, some deep-sea organisms use bioluminescence to attract prey in the dark depths of the ocean.
  7. Research and Applications: Bioluminescence has been widely studied and has practical applications in scientific research. It is used as a tool to study biological processes, such as gene expression and protein interactions. Bioluminescent proteins, like Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), have been utilized as markers in genetic research and medical imaging techniques.

In summary, bioluminescence is characterized by the production of light through a chemical reaction. It is found in diverse organisms and can vary in color, patterns, and timing. Bioluminescence provides evolutionary advantages and has applications in scientific research and medical fields.

Examples of bioluminescent animals

Let us now see some examples of bioluminescent animals.

Luciérnagas (Lampyridae family)

They are insects, relatives of the beetles, and emit a green yellow-light. This is part of the courtship, where they turn on and off their light to call the opposite sex. The light is emitted in a certain code, unique to each species. If the female accepts the male, he will respond with flashes of light. They can be seen when the rainy season begins, especially in wooded areas of abundant vegetation.

Quantula striata

It is the only terrestrial snail that is bioluminescent. The light is barely visible, and it is suggested that it is of communicative purposes. It is emitted from the foot of the snail and activated when moving, in a section called an organ of Haneda, in honor of the doctor who discovered that they emitted light. The eggs also shine.

Cut flashlight fish (Centrophryne spinulosa)

This is a rapper of great depths. Since these are areas where sunlight does not arrive, the animals have developed unique characteristics to survive there. It has a hook that hangs over its head to the visual field, which functions as a lamp with a focus. It is the result of a modification in the fin, and only females have it. Males live glued to the female and live through that parasite-like connection. The eyes are also bioluminescent, and in the case of both structures, it happens thanks to symbiosis with bacteria that carry out the reaction of luciferin-luciferase.


Here you can learn more about the weirdest fish in the world.

Rail worm (Phrixothrix hirtus)

The rail worm is the larvae of a beetle, and surprisingly emits two colors of bioluminescence. The head shines in red, a rare color in bioluminescence, and the body with small dots at the ends of each segment shining in green. The red light serves to shine a light on its passage between the darkness, and the green lights drive away the predators. They are close relatives of the fireflies, so it is to be hoped that when they grow they lose the red light and keep the green.

Vampire squid (Vampyroteuthis infernalis)

The vampire squid lives in great depths, so it needs a defense mechanism adapted to this environment. It lacks the typical ink of the group to which it belongs, but instead has something more functional for the darkness: a bioluminescent mucus, located inside the squid and that is generated by symbiotic bacteria, being they responsible for producing light.

When he feels threatened, he unloads the mucus to mislead his predators. In addition, it has photographs throughout its mantle with which it emits flashes of bioluminescent light, whose activation can modulate at will. Therefore, this animal combines its own bioluminescence with symbiotic. Despite its dramatic scientific name, it is one of the quietest squid.

Bioluminesscan jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca)

This jellyfish is transparent with purple and blue dots and the inner gastric cavity also purple. The flashes of light are activated with mechanical stimuli, as is usually the elevated movement of water. Instead, they emit light for several minutes when cells are stressed or are about to die. They usually accumulate in populations of several individuals, causing flashes of light in an impressive spectacle, which was formerly known as marine brightness by sailors.

Other bioluminescent organisms

This capacity is not unique to animals, but there are other representatives of different kingdoms who can also make their own light. Here are some:

  • Luminescent bacteria: they are typical of the oceans, including sediments and decomposing animals. They generate a phenomenon called a burning sea when there is increase in nutrients, causing a huge glow visible even from satellites, especially in the Indian Ocean.
  • Luminescent Dinadelated: they are protozoa, also typical of oceans and shapers of burning seas. They are visible on many beaches and respond to the movement of water.
  • Bioluminescent mushrooms: There are 112 species of fungi that shine, and it is suggested that they do so to attract insects that will help them disperse their spores.

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