Bioluminescence

Welcome to the world of bioluminescence: the generation of light by living things. From flickering fireflies in Northeastern backyards to bizarre fishes illuminating the deep ocean’s perpetual dark, the tree of life is spangled with organisms that blink, glow, flash, and glitter. How do organisms use bioluminescence, and how do scientists study it? Rare in land animals, the ability to produce light is much more widespread in marine life. A new generation of custom-designed equipment is enabling scientists to observe and collect creatures rarely seen alive before. In the deep ocean off the Solomon Islands, for example, Museum biologists found animals communicating with light. Many more intriguing discoveries await as we explore Earth’s final frontier, the deep sea.

Bioluminescence Evolved at Least 29 times in Marine Fishes Alone

Bioluminescence Evolved at Least 29 times in Marine Fishes Alone

Research published in June, 2016 shows that bioluminescence has evolved many more times among marine fishes, and likely throughout the entire tree of life, than previously thought. 

Submarine Dives Capture Bioluminescence

Submarine Dives Capture Bioluminescence

Sea animals are observed signaling at light speed.

The Effects of DEET on Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates, Pyrocystis fusiformis

The Effects of DEET on Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates, Pyrocystis fusiformis

This 17-year-old Young Naturalist Award winner investigated the effect of DEET on bioluminescent dinoflagellates.

Explore21: Expedition to the Solomon Islands—The Fish

Explore21: Expedition to the Solomon Islands—The Fish

Museum scientists investigate hundreds of reef fish to find that underwater glowing is widespread.

Bioluminescent Fish Flashing Patterns Might Facilitate Mating

Bioluminescent Fish Flashing Patterns Might Facilitate Mating

A 2014 research paper indicates that bioluminescence could promote communication and mating in the open ocean.

Researchers Reveal Covert World of Fish Biofluorescence

Researchers Reveal Covert World of Fish Biofluorescence

A team of researchers has identified more than 180 species that glow in a wide range of colors and patterns.

Museum Researchers Discover Glowing Sea Turtles

Museum Researchers Discover Glowing Sea Turtles

 A Museum researcher observed biofluorescence—the emission of light by plants and animals as a different color than it was absorbed—for the first time in a wild sea turtle.

Descent into Light

Descent into Light

On the 2013 Explore21 Expedition, Museum biologists discover a glowing menagerie underwater in the depths off of the Solomon Islands. 

Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence

A firefly's light seems rare and magical. Yet there are many living things that blink, glow, flash, and glitter.

Q&A with Bioluminescence and Biofluorescence Experts

Q&A with Bioluminescence and Biofluorescence Experts

What's the difference between bioluminescence and biofluoresence? Museum scientists John Sparks and David Gruber answer this and other questions. 

Jellies Down Deep

Jellies Down Deep

Featuring spectacular underwater footage, this video follows scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute as they retrieve jellies from the deep.

Deep-Sea Cephalopods Hide Using Light

Deep-Sea Cephalopods Hide Using Light

Cephalopods turn skin patterns on and off to fool predators.