the waitomo limestone caves on new zealand’s northern island are home to an endemic species of bioluminescent fungus gnat (arachnocampa luminosa, or glow worm fly) who in their larval stage produce silk threads from which to hang and, using a blue light emitted from a modified excretory organ in their tails, lure in prey who then become ensnared in sticky droplets of mucus. photos by dylan toh & marianne lim, spellbound toursmartin rietze and z blue polaris

In the dark of the ocean, some animals have evolved to use bioluminescence as a defense. In the animation above, an ostracod, one of the tiny crustaceans seen flitting near the top of the tank, has just been swallowed by a cardinal fish. When threatened, the ostracod ejects two chemicals, luciferin and luciferase, which, when combined, emit light. Because the glow would draw undesirable attention to the cardinal fish, it spits out the ostracod and the glowing liquid and flees. Check out the full video clip over at BBC News. Other crustaceans, including several species of shrimp, also spit out bioluminescent fluids defensively. (Image credit: BBC, source video; via @amyleerobinson)


“BIOLUMINESCENCE” by RicardoAbraham

Lady Gaga color portrait inspired my the song “Artpop”. The concept was to seem to be a regular portrait then when the lights turn off and the black UV light turns on it reveals a hidden portrait/message.

color pencils, white acrylic paint, and uv florescent invisible ink on black textured paper

(check out instagram for more @ricardoabraham_art)

Glowing sand in the Maldives

The Maldives are a nation composed of a pair of island chains in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Indian subcontinent. On the beaches of these islands at night…a beautiful glow can be found, shown in these photos taken by a visitor to the islands.

This glow is produced by a type of plankton, most likely a dinoflagellate. These single-celled organisms are bioluminescent, producing a pale blue light via a chemical reaction when they are disturbed.

Almost any subtle disturbance can make the critters begin to glow, whether it is natural wave action or something as simple as a footprint.

Although the glow can be lovely, the most common bioluminescent species also produce chemicals that can be toxic to humans, so swimming in waters producing these blue lights in many cases may not be safe (check with the local authorities to be sure if you ever wonder).


Image credit: Mr. Ho - reproduced here with permission

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Milky Way over Bioluminescent Phytoplankton

“Right now in the southern waters of Tasmania we are experiencing an amazing presence of bioluminescent phytoplankton. It was mind blowing stepping out of my car and seeing this entire foreshore glowing. With every little movement in the water an awesome burst of blue would appear. I never thought I’d actually get to see this wonderful phenomenon in person.” -  

James GarlickPhotographed on the South Arm Peninsula, Tasmania, Australia


though beautiful, these fluorescent blue patches of water are an indicator of a harmful algal bloom created by noctiluca scintillans, single celled organisms which become abundant when levels nitrogen and phosphorous from farm run off increase, and which proves toxic to the marine life that consumes it. the noctiluca also serve to deprive the water of oxygen, creating dead zones that are difficult for oceans to recover from. 

while the evolutionary reason for their bioluminescence is still debated, varying from defensive purposes to communication to predatory strategy, the cause of this so called sea sparkle is better known; as the noctiluca float, movement in the water sends electrical impulses around a proton filled compartment inside the microorganisms, triggering a series of chemical reactions which ultimately activates luciferase, a protein that produces the neon blue light.

most marine bioluminescence is in the blue and green light spectrum, as these wavelengths pass furthest through seawater. interestingly, no known fresh water dinoflagellates have ever evolved bioluminescent abilities.

photos by naomi paquette in jervis beach, australia; jonathan eslingfefo bouvier in barra de valizas, uruguay; russ taylor in the florida everglades; doug perrine in the maldives; phil hart in victoria lake, australia; tyrone siu in hong king; kin cheung in hong kong; and lukasz warzecha in the island of mjorn, sweden.