Bioluminescence main content.


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.

Research Bioluminescence Evolved at Least 29 Times in Marine Fishes New research shows that bioluminescence—a phenomenon in which organisms generate visible light through a chemical reaction—ha... June 8, 2016 Blog Post Glowing Shark Patterns Get Brighter in Deep Water A team led by Museum researchers has found that glowing sharks can see one another's colors, and that the patterns they produ... April 26, 2016 Video They Glow! Most of the deep sea is very dark, with little or no sunlight. But that doesn't mean marine animals are in the dark! Learn ho... Article The Effects of DEET on Bioluminescent Dinoflagellates, Pyrocystis fusiformis Puerto Rico is home to three bioluminescent bays, protected inlets that hold millions of marine bioluminescent dinoflagellate... Video Explore21: Expedition to the Solomon Islands—The Fish Glowing is widespread in reef fish. Educator Materials Make Your Own Creatures of Light Ever wonder why some organisms flash, blink, or glow? Discover how by making your own land and ocean creatures that generate... Blog Post Bioluminescent Fish Flashing Patterns Might Facilitate Mating Scientists have shown for the first time that deep-sea fishes that use bioluminescence for communication are diversifying int... March 3, 2014 Blog Post Researchers Reveal Covert World of Fish Biofluorescence A team of researchers led by scientists from the American Museum of Natural History has released the first report of widespre... January 8, 2014 Blog Post 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 abs... January 11, 2016 Video Descent Into Light On the inaugural Explore21 Expedition, Museum biologists discover a glowing menagerie underwater in the depths off the Solomo... Interactive Talking to Fireflies Have you ever wondered why and how fireflies flash? OLogy Card 344 bioluminescence A firefly's light seems rare and magical. Yet there are many living things that blink, glow, flash, and glitter. The deep-sea... Video Jellies Down Deep One of the most abundant forms of ocean life is gelatinous goo. Blog Post November 2 SciCafe: Q&A with Bioluminescence and Biofluorescence Experts Museum scientists John Sparks and David Gruber have traveled the world in search of bioluminescent and biofluorescent organis... October 27, 2011 Video Deep Sea Cephalopods Hide Using Light Cephalopods turn skin patterns on and off to fool predators.