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Bioluminescent fish. By Matthew Moeller grade 5 Mrs. Willits class 2011-2012. Introduction.

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bioluminescent fish

Bioluminescent fish

By Matthew Moeller grade 5

Mrs. Willits class 2011-2012


Take a journey to the bottom of the ocean…where no sunlight reaches…where pressure would kill a human…where light has a whole new meaning…where fish throw a party…this is all the mystery of bioluminescence. Fish are pretty normal, but what about fish with powers? Well lucky for fish, because 80% of them have powers… these fish have bioluminescence.

what is bioluminescence
What is Bioluminescence?
  • People wonder, “What is bioluminescence?” The answer to that question is: bioluminescence is a form of light, that produces no heat.
  • Another question formally asked by people is, “What makes bioluminescence?” The answer to that is luciferin, luciferase and surprisingly, oxygen combined together.
  • Fireflies mix together those chemicals to make themselves bioluminescent!
  • This is how bioluminescent fish produce their bioluminescence too!
ways of the prey
Ways of the Prey
  • One trick bioluminescent fish do is this: when prey are in trouble they glow red, so another predator bigger than the one trying to harm it then will swim toward the light with curiosity. Then, the larger predator will scare the smaller predator, and the prey will swim away unnoticed.
  • They also will squirt a liquid form of bioluminescence at the predator if they are able to. A fish that has the ability to do that is the bioluminescent shrimp (shown below).
  • A bioluminescent squid called the Firefly squid flickers its lights to confuse predators.
  • There is also yet another trick they do. This is called counter illumination, and what they do in this trick is when sunlight dims, they dim their light and then predators think the fishes light is just a reflection.
ways of the prey page 2
Ways of the Prey - page 2
  • Comb Jellies have comb rows that help them move. They have rainbow colors streaming down their combs to scare off predators. The combs are made of cilia, which are hair-like substances similar to eyelashes.
  • There are also problems that prey run into, and literally “run into”. What sometimes happens is an organism called a Cape Cod runs into dinoflagellates (a micro organism that glows green and many other colors in the Caribbean sea at night). The dinoflagellates burst into light and every dinoflagellate that gets hit also bursts into light. Therefore, the Cape Cod leaves a trail of light behind it.
dinoflagellates and comb jellies
Dinoflagellates and Comb Jellies

This is a Comb Jelly.

Those are the comb rows!

These are Dionoflagellates, 1 on the left picture, and 3 on the right picture.

dinoflagellates at sea
Dinoflagellates at sea

This is a picture showing a glow of orange dinoflagellates in the sea. Even though each one is microscopic, they bunch together to form a large group. The small white object in the lower left corner is a big boat, but it looks tiny compared to the huge dinoflaggelate group.

when where and how these fish were first discovered
When, Where, and How these Fish were first Discovered
  • Many people have not heard of bioluminescence in fish, and that is because it has not even been known of for a century!
  • The bioluminescent fish were first discovered in the year 1930 when William Beebe and engineer Otis Barton went down over a mile deep into the ocean. They were exploring off the coast of Bermuda.
  • They went in a designed object by Otis Barton called the Bathysphere. It was created to not feel the pressure of the ocean depth inside of it. Its window was made out of quartz.
william beebe left and otis barton right

The Bathysphere

William Beebe(left) and Otis Barton(right)

Both Beebe and Barton had to fit in that! It was pretty tight!!


On the left William Beebe squeezes into the Bathysphere, and on the right is a portrait of William Beebe a little older.

science science science
Science Science Science!
  • Thereare also organisms called fire worms. They are not always in water, but the ones that are in water come up to the surface of the water 2 days after a full moon. They come up to mate and lay eggs. The worms are not the only thing that glow, but their eggs do also!
  • There is also a worm called the parchment worm that glows, but for its entire life it stays in holes!
  • Glowing creatures can include bacteria, shrimp, algae, krill, worms, jellyfish, squid, sea stars, sharks, octopus, clam, fish and any other living thing from cats to humans and chickens to mushrooms. These can all glow if they are acted upon by dinoflagellates. So, if enough dinoflagellates are consumed …it shall glow.
science science science page 2
Science Science Science! Page 2
  • Depending on the chemicals involved, the color of bioluminescence can vary through any color in the color spectrum and rainbow.
  • Some bioluminescent fish hold bioluminescence inside of their body.
  • A specimen of the Dragon Fish called the Black Belly has a organ that sticks out of its chin and at the end it glows.

That is the organ that sticks out!

science science science page3
Science Science Science! page3
  • Bioluminescence means “Living light,” because in Greek “bio” means living and ”luminescence” in Latin means light!
  • The light produced by bioluminescent fish is called metabolic energy.
science science science page 4
Science Science Science page 4
  • There are also percentages way down there for instance 80% of fish are bioluminescent.
  • Also 90% of the fish in the deep ocean and sea are bioluminescent
science science science page 5
Science Science Science! Page 5
  • In 1672, chemist Robert Boyle wrote to The Royal Society and told them about an encounter he had one night. His chicken that had been dead for 3 days was glowing a blue green light. It did so from dinoflagellates – that is what made the dead chicken Bioluminescent.
  • Some Bioluminescent fish are: the hatchet fish, the lantern fish (which has mini lanterns on its tail), scarlet shrimp, pony fish, flashlight fish and also the spiny dogfish.
some bioluminescent fish
Some Bioluminescent Fish

This is a pony fish.

This is a Spiny Dogfish. Not much is known about this species.

This is a lantern fish. On the bottom a picture shows what they look like.

This is a hatchet fish, eating what looks like a shrimp.

some more bioluminescent fish
Some More Bioluminescent Fish

This is a Flashlight Fish. They are called that for their tiny “flashlights” under their eyes.

This is the Scarlet Shrimp.

facts and trivia
Facts and Trivia
  • There are microorganisms called cypridina, and they glow blue.
  • They need water to glow, but if they are dry for 20 years then finally touch water again…they will still glow.
  • Also during WWII the Japanese found if you crush cypridina in to powder then put it in your hands, the moister in their hands lit up the cypridina and provided enough light to read. They also used the light outside in the light so they could see each other.
facts and trivia continued
Facts and Trivia (Continued)

Click Arrow for answer #2

facts and trivia answer 1
Facts and Trivia (Answer #1)

Click arrow to go back to questions.


Blue is the most common color in Bioluminescence

facts and trivia answer 2
Facts and Trivia (Answer #2)

They can live anywhere from the Tropics to the Arctic.


Bioluminescence is a wonder filled of science. So far it has few answers. There is more to Bioluminescence than what scientists currently know, and we hope for a day when more is known. But for now, these questions remain a secret in the deep sea. Maybe never to be told…

  • Books
  • Title: Living Light Exploring Bioluminescence

By: Amelia M. Horsburgh Schuster Division of Gulf & Western corp. in 1978

Call Number: j 574.19125 HOR

  • Title: Living Lights

By: Alvin and Virginia Silverstein Golden Gate Junior books in San Carlos California 1970

Call Number: j 574.19125 SIL

  • Title: Creatures Of The Sea: Creatures That Glow

By: Kris Hirschmanh 2005 Thomson co. Gale

Call Number: j 572.4358 HIR

bibliography continued
Bibliography (continued)
  • Websites