Bioluminescent Distractions

A deep-sea shrimp spews bioluminescent chemicals at its predator, a viperfish. EDITH WIDDER

Nothing like bioluminescence to take your mind off of other things for a while. Thanks to Yale e360 for this:

A Scientist Reveals the Bioluminescent Magic of the Deep-Sea World

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, marine biologist Edith Widder talks about her pioneering research into the world of bioluminescent organisms in the deep oceans and warns of the dangers, from trawling to oil drilling, that imperil this hidden realm.

Atolla vanhoeffeni, a bioluminescent deep-sea jellyfish. EDITH WIDDER

Until recently, the depths of the world’s oceans remained almost entirely unexplored. But advances in submersible technology are increasingly giving scientists a window into this little-known universe. One of the leaders in this exploration is marine biologist Edith Widder, who has extensively studied bioluminescent, or light-producing, organisms that use this trait to communicate, defend themselves, and hunt in darkness. Among other things, Widder has worked with engineers to develop highly sensitive deep-sea light meters and special cameras, like the remotely operated Eye-in-the-Sea, which allow for real-time monitoring of the seafloor. Continue reading

Surfing On Light

Starting in 2012, bioluminescence has been on our radar, and the phenomenon never fails to impress. We appreciate  the potential utility, and will continue linking to the science. But for now, consider California, hard hit by so many other unwelcome phenomena, and how it deserves a bit of light fun now:

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Blue waves, illuminated by the light of bioluminescent organisms, crash along the coast of Blacks Beach in the community of La Jolla. Photograph: KC Alfred/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Bioluminescent waves dazzle surfers in California: ‘Never seen anything like it’

Crowds are coming to see the light show as beaches begin to reopen after an almost month-long closure due to coronavirus


A surfer rides a wave as bioluminescent plankton lights up the surf around him, in Newport Beach, California. Photograph: Mark J Terrill/AP

Mother nature has provided a radical gift to nighttime beach-goers in southern California, in the form of bioluminescent waves that crash and froth with an otherworldly light.

The event occurs every few years along the coast of southern California, though locals say this year’s sea sparkle is especially vibrant, possibly related to historic rains that soaked the region and generated algal bloom. Continue reading

Bioluminescence, Fungi, Science



A bioluminescent jack-o’-lantern mushroom found in Pisgah National Forest, near Asheville, N.C. Credit Mike Belleme for The New York Times

Three of our favorite topics in one, thanks to Joanna Klein, the New York Times, and Science (the section of the paper and the thing itself):

PISGAH NATIONAL FOREST, N.C. — Here’s what I was told: Get away from the city, go during a new moon and keep my flashlight off. When the sky faded black enough to spot stars twinkling, I’d be able to see mushrooms glowing. Continue reading

Bioluminescence Better Understood

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Thanks to Cool Green Science for shedding more light on a topic we have commented on from time to time since starting this platform:

Living Light

What makes some living things glow?


For two weeks each year at the beginning of summer, fireflies light up a portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They glow in unison or in waves as males communicate with females in an elaborate mating dance that no one fully understands. There are at least 19 firefly species in the park, but Photinus carolinus is one of the only fireflies in America known to light in unison. Tourists arrive by the thousands to watch. Continue reading

Lights in the Dark

Galiteuthis. Credit: MBARI

In the past three days, two of the blogs we visit have shared a total of three posts concerning animals that live in the deep sea, where light is scarce. Ed Yong has written for NatGeo’s blog about a “squid that has glowing eyeshadow that acts as an invisibility cloak,” as well as the genetic branches and diversity of species exhibiting bioluminescence; Matt Miller wrote for The Nature Conservancy’s blog about a new book by photographer Danté Fenolio called Life in the Dark: Illuminating Biodiversity in the Shadowy Haunts of Planet Earth. Below, a quick excerpt from each, starting with the squid:

The oceans of the world are home to animals that render themselves invisible with glowing eyeshadow.

They’re called glass squid and, as their name suggests, they are largely transparent. They’d be impossible to see in the darkness of the open ocean were it not for their eyes—the only obviously opaque parts of their bodies.

Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In Japan


A firefly squid in Japan. The best time to see them is between March and June. Credit Michael Ready/Visuals Unlimited, Inc., via Getty Images

It is Science section day in the New York Times, and this story doubles as a travel recommendation:

Hop on a fishing boat in Toyama Bay, Japan, in the wee hours of the morning and you may feel as if you’re in a spaceship, navigating through the stars. That’s because each year, between March and June, millions of firefly squid transform the water into a galactic landscape. Lucky for you, all you need is a reservation to come aboard, your eyes and perhaps a really good camera.

The firefly squid may bring to mind a lightning bug. But the cephalopod is three inches long and flies through the sea, not the sky. And instead of a single light on its belly, it has five around each eye, three each on the tips of two of its arms and even more covering its body. Continue reading