Bioluminiscence- The Magical World of Nature



The phenomenon of producing light by an organism using a chemical reaction is referred to as bioluminiscence. Enzymes and substrates react differently in different organisms to produce a natural glow which exhibit stunning displays of natural wonder.

The light emitting molecule called luciferen varies little in different organisms: however, the enzyme luciferase generally requires other co- factors to perform and varies widely among species.


However, bioluminiscence is not just a visual delight. Natural survival tactics of the animal and plant kingdom are mainly manifested through this phenomenon, which includes counter- illumination camouflage techniques, luring of prey through mimicry of other animals as well as signalling other individuals of the same species so as to attract mates.

Even in laboratories, luciferase- based systems are used in genetic engineering and biomedical research. Even a bioluminiscent plant has been developed by scientists by using of this spectacular natural process.


Bioluminiscence occurs widely in animals and about 76% of deep- sea animals produce light.

In open sea, bioluminiscence is exhibited by fishes, jelly fishes, star fishes, comb jellies, clams, worms, crustaceans, cephalopod molluscs, sharks as well as in some fungi and bacteria.

jellyfish exhibiting bioluminiscence
Source: Flickr

Land dwellers exuding natural light includes insects like larvae, annelids and arachnids, fireflies, glow worms and some fungi.

Marine light emission generally occurs under the blue and green light spectrum. However, red and infra- red light as well as yellow hues are also rarely exhibited.

yellow red jellyfish bioluminescence


The most frequently encountered bioluminescent organisms may be the dinoflagellates present in the surface layers of the sea, which are responsible for the sparkling phosphorescence sometimes seen at night in disturbed water. At least eighteen genera exhibit luminosity. A different effect is the thousands of square miles of the ocean which shine with the light produced by bioluminescent bacteria, known as mareel or the milky sea effect. Bioluminiscence is sometimes exhibited only in night, under a Circadian rhythm.

Source: Greenreport


Fungus gnat from New Zealand, Arachnocampa luminosa emits bluish- green light and dangle silken threads that glow to attract insects.

new zealand bioluminescent cave
Source: Irish Mirror

The larvae of another fungus gnat from North America that live on streambanks, Orfelia fultoni emits a deep blue light.

Orfelia fultoni
Source: Aster Mapping

Click beetles emit an orange glow when flying and a green light when they are moving about on the ground.

glowing termite mounds
Source: Dino Planet

And while bioluminiscence is a relatively common natural phenomena, the first recorded depiction of a bioluminiscent plankton in Bollywood was observed in the stills of the song Galliyan from Ek Villain. It was indeed nature that rendered more magic to the soulful number which flashes as gloriously in front of our eyes as much as it reverberates in our heart!

depiction of a bioluminiscent plankton in Bollywood
Source: India Forums