Glowing In the Woods – what is it?. Biolumenescence -- terrestrial organisms. Bioluminescence: (Bio = life; luminescence =chemical light energy). Many different organisms are endowed with the ability to emit light . These luminescent organisms have
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Biolumenescence -- terrestrial organisms
(Bio = life; luminescence =chemical light energy)
Many different organisms are endowed with
the ability to emit light . These luminescent organisms have
been observed for ages. The first scientific attempts to understand the
origin in luminescence began in the 1600’s. The first studies determined
the “light” was dependent on the air (oxygen).1
*Luciferase is an oxygenase optimized for light emission that catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin - to obtain oxyluciferin in the singlet-excited state.2
Luciferin consists of a benzothiazole moiety attached to a
thiozole carboxycilic acid 2
Use bioluminescenc for: COMMUNICATION
Males and females exchange flashes for the purpose
of attraction and mating.
The female sits on the ground to flash to a certain selected male only.
She chooses the male based on his flash pattern.
The female firefly signals her response to the males
that have the longer and faster flashes.
This female choice favors the most conspicuous flashes.3
Scientists question why there is not more of an evolutionary adaptation
towards a longer and quicker flash. Why don’t we
see the majority of the males with this trait.3
The answer to this question may be a survival mechanism.
The firefly signaling
not only attracts potential mates,
But also attracts the bigger beetle-Photuris
Photuris mimics signals of the firefly and
essentially attracts her next meal.
Bacteria identified as being luminescent belong
to the following genera:
Symbiosis- requiring unique nutritional supplements, the bacteria grow
on the host ; the host gains the bioluminescent properties of the bacteria4.
The host organism uses this new found
property for communication within
its own species interactions.
For continuous light production in
bacteria includes not only bacterial luciferase, but also the enzymes
that supply and regenerate the substrates of bacterial luciferase.4
The DNA sequences coding the proteins in the luminescent system
are termed the lux genes. Only 5 genes in the lux operon
(luxCDABE) are needed to produce light emission.4
The substrates of bacterial luciferase are reduced flavin mononucleotide (FMNH2 ), molecular oxygen, and long chain fatty aldehydes.4
These bacteria utilize FMNH2 , O2 , and long fatty aldehyde as substrates for the bioluminescence reaction catatlyzed by luciferase (LuxAB) with the fatty acid resiductase complex (LuxCDE) synthesizing the long chain aldehyde substrate of tetradecanal. A NAD(P)H-dependent FMN reductase found in most, if not all, bacteria generates the FMNH2 substrate.4
Finding and attracting insects;
not as prey but as a means of
dispersing fungal spores.5
Like the firefly, the use of bioluminescence not only attracts the wanted insects, but the predatory ones as well. The fungus is subject to organisms who can destroy their very essence.
The “glowing in the woods” or Foxfire, has been discussed as far back as Aristotle in 382 B.C.5
Fungal bioluminescent studies have been conducted in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteeth centuries.5
Studies have identified many fungal species, attached to rotting and decaying wood, as having bioluminescent properties.
Beetles use bioluminescence as a defensive mechanism. The adult female remains in larvaeform.6
The light is also used as a sexual attractant from the female to male of the species.
Lampyridae larvae (glowworm) use luminescence as a signal for unpalability to the nocturnal, visually guided predators.
Example: Wild toads (Bufo Bufo) are reluctant to attack luminescent glow worm larvae.6
The millipede is blind and therefore can not utilize bioluminescence for visual attraction of the species.
Its luminance is used as a warning signal known
as Aposematism, and it will additionally release HCN
which produces a pungent odor.
It is noted, that this type of bioluminescence is of no voluntary control, and the light glow is continual.
The Japanese fungus gnat spins a web festooned with poisons and adhesives and block predatory or parasitic enemies.7
Another example of luminescence used for
Defense from predators.
“Glowing in the Woods” is demonstrated by many
species of organisms. Bioluminescence used for
communication, attraction, or defense, has been observed for many
centuries. Currently, bioluminescence is being utilized in the
research laboratories for biochemical toxicity studies, and
chemiluminescence for medical imaging techniques. The
“ glowing” phenomena exhibits wonder for all.
1. Biron, K., Fireflies, Dead Fish and a Glowing Bunny: a Primer on bioluminescence. BioTeach Journal. April 2003; Vol. 1: pgs. 19-26. Internet: retrieved October 11, 2007 from www.bioteach.ubc.ca.
2. Roda, A. [Guardigli, M., Michelini, E., Mirasoli, M., Pasini, P.] Analytical Bioluminescence and Chemiluminescence. Analytical Chemistry. American Chemical Society. November 2003; pgs. 463-470. Internet: retrieved October 11, 2007 from http://avogadro.chem.iastate.edu/CHEM513/1103feature
3. Tufts University. Biologists Expose Hidden Costs of Firefly Flashes: Risky Balalnce Bewteen Sex and Death. Science Daily. September 2007; Internet: retrieved October 11, 2007 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09
5. Sivinski, J. Phototrophism, Bioluminescence, and Diptera. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology. Florida Entomologist. September 1998; vol. 81: n.3 pg. 282. Internet: retrieved October 11, 2007 from http://www.fcla.edu/FlaEnt/fe81p282.html.
6. De Cock, R. [Matthysen, E.] Glow-worm larvae bioluminescence (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) operates as an aposematic signal upon toads (Bufo Bufo). Behavioral Ecology. 2003; vol 14: n. 1 pgs. 103-108. Internet: retrieved October 11, 2007 from http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/14/1/103.
7. Davenport, D., [Wootton, D.,Cushing, J.]. The Biology of the Sierra Luminous Millipede. Luminodesmu sequoiae, Loomis and Davenport. University of California. No year given. pgs.100-111. Internet: retrieved October 11, 2007 from http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/reprint/102/2/100.pdf