Monthly Archives: February 2013

Creatures that Glow

This week We Love Science tweeted a story from the BBC website where they talked about scientists investigating whether the light given off by some living creatures, such as fireflies and jellyfish, can help us in medical and other areas.

 fireflies

One of the activities in “Science by Storm” is about sorting sources of light into man-made and natural categories, and one natural sources is the glow worm. We started talking about these unusual creatures that give off light – unusual because they are rarely seen in the UK. I have only once seen red glow worms in a farmer’s field in Dorset one summer night.

The production of light by a living organism is called bioluminescence, which is a compound word: bio for ‘living’ ;and luminescence from the Latin word for light. It is produced as a chemical reaction in cells in part of their bodies. There are a number of reasons creatures give off light:
– glow worms use it to attract moths or other insects, which then get stuck on the sticky skin and get eaten
– fireflies and beetles emit light to attract a partner, with some fireflies having a special flashing signals for courting!
– deep in the ocean some squids squirt luminescence to repel predators

 On coral reefs, coral can be fluorescent, which means they re-emits light when it is shone on the coral. Scientists think this is a way the coral protects itself from sunlight. Sometimes algae is fluorescent and boats may leave behind them a colourful trail.

 

If you know of any creatures that glow near your school, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Resources

UK Glow Worms 

BBC Nature

Project to make glow in the dark jars (English and Hungarian)

A collection of references to bioluminescence

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