A Brief Introduction to Bioluminescence

In this article, you will become familiar with bioluminescence meaning, its uses and also about the animals that light up because of the phenomenon. 

It will help you to understand why the phenomenon occurs and will further help to relate it with other associated concepts with greater ease.

On that note, let’s proceed to uncover the bioluminescence meaning!

What is Bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence definition can be described as the natural phenomenon wherein certain living organisms light up because of certain chemical reactions. As a result, the chemical energy readily changes into light energy. 

It is noteworthy that the occurrence of bioluminescence in land and freshwater is quite rare when compared to its appearance in oceans. As much as 90% of animals harbouring in the deep ocean are luminescent. 

Furthermore, bioluminescent animals on land tend to emit light in blue-green hues or shades belonging to the yellow spectrum. On the other hand, the marine organisms emit light which has a blue-green glow.

Test Your Knowledge: Define bioluminescent and provide suitable examples.

Mechanism of Bioluminescence 

A chemical reaction in the body of certain organisms leads to bioluminescence. It is noteworthy that the said reaction involves a particular class of chemicals known as luciferins or light-bringers.

This luciferin oxidises in the presence of the catalytic enzyme called luciferase and emits light and oxyluciferin, which is an ineffective compound.  

Notably, there is a reaction between a substrate and an enzyme, but different bioluminescent species may use different chemicals for it. 

[Image: Mechanism of Bioluminescence]

Uses of Bioluminescence

These are how organisms use their luminescence –

  1. To attract or find prey.

  2. For defence.

  3. To attract mates.

  4. As a means of communication.

  5. As a response to change in the environment. 

Though there are several uses of bioluminescence, it has some shortcomings as well. For instance, bioluminescent organisms often scare their prey away instead of drawing them in. 

Application of Bioluminescence

Here is how human beings use bioluminescence for their benefit.

  1. It serves as a tool for researchers.

  2. It is used extensively as a work of art employed by artists to create lines or make exhibits in petri dishes.

  3. For monitoring the environment.

  4. To assess toxicity.

  5. It is used in the field of biology and medicine.

  6. To conduct remedial investigations.

  7. As a means of field method. 

  8. For light production.

  9. As a tool in marine ecosystems

There are several types of bioluminescence which are hard to find or observe under light. As a result, researchers are still unable to collect their samples for research and to find out how useful they can prove. 

Bioluminescent Creatures

This phenomenon is noticed in several organisms, including worms, mushrooms, and fungi. These are some of the most common examples of bioluminescent organisms. 

Examples of  Bioluminescent Organisms

S.No.

Bioluminescent Animals

1.

Jellyfish

2.

Starfish

3. 

Squid

4.

Shark

5.

Crustaceans

6.

Black Dragonfish

7.

Dinoflagellate

8.

Glow-worm

9.

Fire-files

10.

Fungi

11.

Lantern Fish

12.

Siphonophores


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Bioluminescence?

Ans. It is a natural phenomenon wherein organisms emit light because of a chemical reaction. In the said reaction chemical energy changes into light energy in the presence of luciferase catalyses luciferin. It is noteworthy that the reaction takes place outside organisms’ cells.

2. What are Some Bioluminescent Creatures?

Ans. Fungi, comb jelly, lantern fish, starfish, squids, worms, black dragonfish, crustaceans, etc. are some bioluminescence examples. 

3. What are Some Uses of Animals that Light Up?

Ans.  Some of the most common uses include – finding and attracting prey, for mating, to communicate, defend and react to changes in the environment.