NOVA’s "Creatures of Light" Airs February 3

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On Wednesday, February 3, PBS stations will present “Creatures of Light” a NOVA special that introduces viewers to the spectacular light shows being put on by underwater animals.

“Creatures of Light” features interviews with John Sparks, curator-in-charge of  the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology, whose research focuses on the ways that fishes and other marine life produce light in an array of colors, through both bioluminescensce—producing their own light, usually through chemical means—and bifluorescence, which involves absorbing light and emitting it as a different color.

David Chalmers at Singularity Summit 2009 -- Simulation and the Singularity from MIRI on Vimeo.

 Though the lights produced by biofluorescence include swatches of neon red and yellow and vibrant oranges and greens, these hues exist on wavelengths that are impossible for humans to see without special filters. In 2013, Sparks led the Museum’s Explore21 Expedition to the Solomon Islands, where he and colleagues, including Research Associate David Gruber, captured dazzling photographs and videos that revealed biofluorescence in many animals never thought to exhibit the trait. The trip resulted in not only amazing footage and photos, but also numerous publications.

More recently, Sparks co-authored a paper on biofluorescence in sea turtles, an unexpected discovery made by Gruber. 

If Creatures of Light sounds familiar, it’s because the program shares a name with a 2012 special exhibition curated by Sparks and developed by the Museum in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Field Museum. That exhibition is currently traveling, but you can get back up to speed on the topic courtesy of your local PBS station this Wednesday, February 3, at 9 pm.