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Creatures of Light Offers Window Into Bioluminescent World

On Exhibit posts

The Museum’s latest exhibition, which lets visitors explore a series of ecosystems that sparkle with radiant creatures, is a uniquely immersive experience.

En route to the deep-sea homes of luminous fishes, visitors walk through a field of flashing fireflies, explore caves strung with jewel-like glowworms, and “wade” through a digital bioluminescent bay that glitters underneath each step. Overhead, a symphonic soundtrack composed by Tom Phillips helps set a distinct mood for each section, contributing to a magical setting in what Edward Rothstein of The New York Timescalled “a thoroughly engrossing exhibition.”

Tags: Bioluminescence

Fireflies

Reading the Language of Firefly Flashes

On Exhibit posts

Flashing flirted its way up the firefly family tree. These beetles’ evolutionary history shows a strange metamorphosis unfolding. Firefly eyes grow bigger, more bug-like, as the insects’ light organs enlarge. Their antennae, used like a nose to follow pheromones, shrink into stubs. The more important bioluminescent courtship signaling became throughout their history, the more the trappings of invisible communication faded out.

When Marc Branham, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida, began researching fireflies, he assumed such a beloved animal would be a textbook case in entomology. He was shocked to learn how little scientists knew about the common insect.

Tags: Bioluminescence

Hatchetfishes

Bioluminescence Across the Tree of Life

On Exhibit posts

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.

Many people are familiar with the summertime flashing patterns of fireflies and have seen images of bizarre bioluminescent deep-sea fishes. However, few realize how pervasive bioluminescence is throughout the tree of life. Bioluminescence is  known to occur in bacteria, protists, fungi, crustaceans, insects, worms, ctenophores, jellyfishes, squids, starfishes, sea cucumbers, tunicates, and fishes—not to mention sharks—as well as numerous additional invertebrate lineages.

Tags: Bioluminescence

sparks-260

Behind the Scenes: Keeping It Current

On Exhibit posts

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31.

One of the most exciting, yet challenging, things about this exhibition is that we have been able to incorporate so much current research. Many of the images and results visitors will see are the subject of ongoing research projects by me and a number of collaborators.

Tags: Bioluminescence

creatures

Zach Baldwin on How Ponyfishes and Flashlight Fishes Shine

On Exhibit posts

Curator John Sparks is blogging weekly about the upcoming exhibition, Creatures of Light, which opens on Saturday, March 31. This week, he invited Zach Baldwin, a Ph.D. student at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School who works in the Department of Ichthyology and who consulted on the exhibition, to contribute the guest post below.

A common misconception about bioluminescent fishes is that they all live in the perpetual darkness of the deep sea. In truth, one of the most fascinating aspects of bioluminescence is the diversity of organisms and environments in which the phenomenon is known to occur. There are bioluminescent fishes occurring on coral reefs, in estuaries, and even in the rocky intertidal zone along coastlines. Approximately 100 species in nine families of fishes that live in shallow marine waters are known to luminesce.

Tags: Bioluminescence

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