bioluminescent bacteria


Nature to illuminate research

Here you can see fireflies, a type of beetle that glows.

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light from enzymes called luciferases. In nature, many organisms such as jellyfish and fireflies ‘glow’ using these enzymes. 

In scientific research, bioluminescent proteins are used to monitor changes to cells. 

In the bottom images around 7000 bacterial colonies have been printed on an agar plate.The bacteria have been genetically engineered to display the bioluminescent enzyme from the firefly Photinus pyralis

The images were taken with a sensitive camera which can detect the light output from luciferase in each colony. The light output of different types of luciferase can be analysed to discover which ones have enhanced characteristics that could be used in research.

Image credits: Terry Priest, s58y, Cassandra Stowe


Rare Natural Phenomena

  1. Mammatus clouds are cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud. They are formed in sinking air contrary to any other form of clouds that are formed in rising air.
  2. The Hessdalen Light Hessdalen Light is an unexplained light phenomenon that occurs in Hessdalen valley of Norway. They were observed over 15 to 20 times per week from 1982 until 1984. Since then, the activity has decreased and now the lights are observed about 10 to 20 times per year.
  3. Earthquake lights are unusual luminous atmospheric phenomenon. They are usually reportedly in areas of high seismic activity or volcanic eruptions. They were believed to be myths until they were photographed in 1965 during the Matsushiro earthquake of Japan. It was then that seismologists worldwide accepted of their existence. Earthquake lights are caused by an unknown mechanism. They are either white, blue or multi-spectrum.
  4. Bioluminescent Water This actually occur when bioluminescent bacteria float on the surface of sea water.
  5. Frozen Methane Bubbles Methane bubbles form in water when dead organic matter falls to the bottom, much to the delight of bacteria. When methane gets trapped in frozen water, it produces scenes like these. Just don’t light a match when these bubbles are freed.

Bioluminescent bacteria

Taking cues from the firefly, a Dutch electronics company has created a product called “Bio-light”—an eco-friendly lighting system that uses glowing, bioluminescent bacteria. They’re not powered by electricity or sunlight, but by methane generated by the company’s Microbial Home bio-digester that processes anything from vegetable scraps to human waste. The living bacteria are fed through silicon tubes, and as long as they’re nutritionally-fulfilled, they can indefinitely generate a soft, heat-free green glow using the enzyme luciferase and its substrate, luciferin. They’re kept in hand-blown glass bulbs clustered together into lamps, but you can’t light up your house with them yet—the glow isn’t nearly bright enough to replace conventional artificial lights. They do, however, get people to think about untapped household energy sources and how to make use of them. The company, Phillips, also envisions the use of these Bio-lights outside the home—for nighttime road markings, signs in theatres and clubs, and even biosensors for monitoring diabetes.


The night on the coast was beautiful. Just outside the jungle with the water lapping at the ocean with it’s bioluminescent bacteria lighting up the area. Zax was limping slowly across the beach and settled down in the sand, letting out a breath with a soft noise. He rubbed at his knees and looked up, blinking at the stars. He meant to get a few minutes rest when he sat up abruptly, antennae pinned back feeling.. Tense. 

He turned slowly, cautious. Maybe an animal? Someone of his species? But it was none of these. It was… Something he’d never seen before in his life. Large pink eyes squint and he stayed very still, ready to run if it seemed aggressive.