Bioluminescent creatures are nature’s glow-in-the-dark beings. We commonly see bioluminescence in fireflies. Bioluminescence never fails to capture our attention – remember those amazing plants in the movie Avatar?
From a radiating cockroach to a 60-foot living glitter in the deep ocean, here are the real glowing creatures that look like they have landed from another dimension.
Hawaiian Bobtail squid
Hawaiian Bobtail squid is commonly found in the shallow waters in the Hawaiian coast and in the central Pacific. This tiny squid lives in camouflage during the daytime. At night, the squid will display an ingenious show of bioluminescence.
It has a unique symbiotic relationship with a kind of bioluminescent bacteria. These colonized bacteria create just the right amount of light. This matches the surrounding moonlight or other diffracted light sources. As a result, it becomes almost undetectable to its prey and predators.
They also pay the bacteria. The squid secretes a solution of sugar and amino acid to feed on. Interestingly, the Hawaiian bobtail squid learns this trick within one day of its birth to survive from its predators. It secretes mucus from its organ which attracts these bioluminescent bacteria to inhabit.
In the morning while this little squid goes to rest, it pours out about 90% of the colonized bacteria and at night replenishes again. The experts at the US Air Force are studying this little creature’s reflective properties in the field of aircraft camouflage.
A comb jelly looks like an extraterrestrial being. Researchers have found that comb jellies have been here on earth long time before us, since an estimated 500 million years.
These invertebrates live deep in the Atlantic Ocean. People also call them sea walnuts. Most noteworthy, these unearthly creatures have a stretchable skin that is 95% water, without any bones or shells.
Although called jellies, these gelatinous creatures are not true jellyfish. These translucent creatures do not sting like jellyfish do.
Surprisingly this seemingly translucent creature without a spine is also an invasive species. It is causing extensive economic damage in the European sea waters.
Comb jelly’s glow is due to ten different photoproteins that are grouped in their genome. The lights which run up and down its body are the result of photoproteins. It releases brief flashes of light for a fraction of a second. A very mesmerizing display of rainbow colors is produced when external light reflects off their cilia.
Scientifically named as Stauroteuthis syrtensis, this is a very rare octopus. Also scientists have not found a live one for their research yet. Its soft and gelatinous body has eight unequal arms with 60 suckers in each of the arms.
It lives in northern Atlantic at the depths of 500 to 4,000 m (1,600 to 13,100 ft). This octopus has an ingenious bioluminescent beak. It uses the beak to fool and draw plankton to itself.
The octopus puts its light on and off. It can emit glowing light up to five minutes. Its photophores can give various kinds of illumination – from a faint to a bright glow to a cyclical pattern than look like twinkles.
Bioluminescent Bamboo Corals
Bamboo Corals are the cosmopolitans among corals – they are found in the sea waters almost all around the world. Also bamboo corals dominate many deep sea beds. Imagine yourself in an Avatar-like-scene where the sea bed lights up in a magical blue glow with the touch of your hand!
Scientists have little idea why they glow. Bamboo corals are essentially bands of calcium carbonate, emitting a blue glow along their axis upon stimulus.
Bluish and greenish lights travel best in water. The other colors get absorbed before they reach our eyes and that is the reason why most aquatic bioluminescent creatures are found in that spectrum.
Scientists speculate that the coral bamboo’s glow upon touch is a sort of warning mechanism against its inherent toxicity. We need to read nature’s own language to interpret her messages.
Many sea creatures look like they have come from another dimension and Pyrosomes are one of them. ‘Pyro’ means fire and ‘soma’ means body so the name ‘pyrosome’ literally stands for ‘fire body’.
Pyrosomes are one of the brightest bioluminescent creatures. Their light can be seen from 100 feet away!
A pyrosome is a creature in itself. It is a collection of colonies called tunics. Each tunic consists of tiny creatures called zooids. These stay together to form a colony. They use bioluminescent light and signals to communicate within the colony itself.
They send another type of gleaming signal to send and receive messages from one colony to the other.
Now this pyrosome colony can stretch quite long and it is not uncommon to find a sixty-foot long tube body. So we can be easily scared to find such a creature in the deep. But pyrosomes are truly harmless to humans. They feed on plankton by filtering the sea water as it passes through the tube.
One of the weirdest creations of nature are the jellyfish. Not only they do not have a spine, no brain, no respiratory or circulatory or central nervous system, and yet they have managed to survive on earth for at least 500 million years.
When you further add to that its adaptability to various environments that led it to create its own bioluminescence, one feels bound to salute to such biological feats.
Atolla jelly lives in that part of the ocean that is called the midnight zone. These are the depths of the ocean that do not get sunlight. Living in depths of 1,000-4,000 meters, it has 20 tentacles.
Atolla jellyfish has a unique way to put off predators. When alarmed, it illuminates its organs forming a circular ring with blue light. With that, it displays sparkles of blue light that look somewhat like the flashing light of a police car!
These are one of the most beautiful sea creatures on planet earth with their brightly luminescent bodies. Their translucent bodies have more than a hundred light-producing tiny organs on their bell which emit an ethereal bluish green glow when stimulated.
This creature stings its prey and injects it with its poison. These jellyfish can also become cannibalistic at times, preying on their own species for food and survival.
Crystal jellies use a Calcium++ activated photoprotein called aequorin along with green fluorescent protein (GFP) to cause the bioluminescence.
Scientists in the field of genetic research are using GFP as a ‘biological highlighter’ that helps them to locate genes faster. By introducing the GFP from the jelly into mice, ‘green mice’ have been produced by scientists, which release green glow under blue light.
Luminous fungus gnat
Deep, dark and damp caves of New Zealand are often found to become a glittery fairy-tale- spectacle at night. The bioluminescent ‘glowworms’ draw thousands of tourists especially to the Waitomo Cave.
The fungus gnats can glow all through their lives, since they hatch until the adulthood. These tiny creatures create strands of mucous and silk throughout the walls of the caves. At night, the gnats begin to glow, attracting insects and flies into their net.
The greatest threat to these little creatures is from the visiting tourists. Noises from humans scare these and they turn off their lights. Sadly, no lights mean no dinner to feed on.
The snail, Quantula striata is the only glowing land snail on the planet. Not only does it glisten of green light but its eggs can also glow in the dark.
It is found in Singapore, Phillipines, Cambodia, Fiji and Malaysia. During the day it is easy to miss this plain looking brown shelled gastropod.
The snail produces flashes 0.5 seconds to 6 seconds long. Scientists do not know for sure why this snail is bioluminescent. It is probably a kind of communication signal to each other.
Glow in the dark cockroach
This list just gets weirder with a bioluminescent cockroach. A recently discovered species, Lucihormetica luckae is one of the few species of cockroach that have been found to glow in the dark.
It is an amazing adaption because with its bioluminescent abilities it mimicries a toxic click beetle to deter its predators. Furthermore the cockroach uses two large eye-like spots and another smaller area to give off the impersonated glow.
This cockroach is a rare species and it is found only in Ecuador hidden far away from light pollution. Scientists are afraid that it might be almost extinct. The exoskeleton of the cockroach carries bacteria filled reservoirs that help in the creating light in its organs.
Credits: montereybayaquarium.org, medicine-for-all.ru, sites.biology.duke.edu, earthtouchnews.com, greenarea.me, newbiescience.files.wordpress.com, lifescienceexplore.wordpress.com