Researchers Unveil Rich World of Fish Biofluorescence

Chain catshark

A green biofluorescent chain catshark (Scyliorhinus retifer)

©AMNH/J. Sparks, D. Gruber, and V. Pieribone


A team of researchers led by scientists from the American Museum of Natural History has released the first report of widespread biofluorescence in the tree of life of fishes, identifying more than 180 species that glow in a wide range of colors and patterns. Published today in PLOS ONE, the research shows that biofluorescence—a phenomenon by which organisms absorb light, transform it, and eject it as a different color—is common and variable among marine fish species, indicating its potential use in communication and mating. The report opens the door for the discovery of new fluorescent proteins that could be used in biomedical research.