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The Ocean's Light Show - Bioluminescence

Updated: Feb 17, 2023


What is it ?

Bioluminescence is a light or glow produced in living organisms by a chemical reaction. This is a “cold light” which means it produces little or no heat. It is a type of chemiluminescence which is another way of representing a chemical reaction that releases light as a byproduct. Most bioluminescent organisms are inhabited in the deep ends of the ocean such as sea stars, fish, plankton, bacteria, jellyfish and more. Some land organisms that also produce bioluminescence light are fireflies and glow worms.

How does it work ?

The chemical reaction:

The reactants include luciferin, luciferase, and oxygen resulting in products of oxyluciferin and light.

Luciferin + Luciferase + Oxygen → Oxyluciferin + Light

Luciferin - is a molecular compound

Luciferase - is an enzyme (biocatalyst) it determines the efficiency of the chemical reaction Oxyluciferin - is a byproduct of the interaction between oxidized luciferase and luciferin

Some Organisms that produce luciferin undergo this chemical reaction producing light of their own for example, plankton - tiny marine drifters; these fascinating creatures can create the illusion of a starry night in the ocean. While other organisms are incapable of this, so they hold on to bioluminescent bacteria.

Who uses it ?

There are three main reasons for why animals use bioluminescence:

1. To warn predators Squids when endangered by a predator, flash a quick light and try to escape while the predator is left stunned or surprised by the action. It gains the squid a couple of seconds of leisure to swim away while they still can.

2. To lure prey The anglerfish uses this technique to lure prey, it has a filament at the top of its head which has a sack which uses bioluminescence to lure small fish that are curious and attracted to the light. Not knowing the predator lurking behind the light ready to feast.

3. To communicate

Fireflies use their glow to attract mates. Male fireflies glow on and off in different patterns in an attempt to impress a female.

Bioluminescence is another alluring natural phenomena explained by science. An ongoing glow in the depths of the ocean.

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