Top Ten Bioluminescent Animals

Top Ten Bioluminescent Animals


       Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Its name is a hybrid word, originating from the Greek bios for “living” and the Latin lumen “light.” Bioluminescence is a naturally occurring form of chemiluminescence where energy is released by a chemical reaction in the form of light emission. Fireflies, anglerfish, and other creatures produce the chemicals luciferin (a pigment) and luciferase (an enzyme). The luciferin reacts with oxygen to create light. The luciferase acts as a catalyst to speed up the reaction, which is sometimes mediated by cofactors such as calcium ions or ATP. The chemical reaction can occur either inside or outside the cell. In bacteria, the expression of genes related to bioluminescence is controlled by an operon called the Lux operon. Bioluminescence occurs in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as fungi, microorganisms and terrestrial animals. Symbiotic organisms carried within larger organisms are also known to bioluminesce.

  1. Sea Sparkle

           Noctiluca scintillans, commonly known as the Sea Sparkle, and also published as Noctiluca miliaris, is a free-living non-parasitic marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate that exhibits bioluminescence. The bioluminescent characteristic of N. scintillans is produced by a luciferin-luciferase system located in thousands of spherically shaped organelles, or “microsources,” located throughout the cytoplasm of this single-celled protist. Nonluminescent populations within the genus Noctiluca lack these microsources.
  2. Anglerfish

           Anglerfishes are members of the teleost order Lophiiformes. They are bony fishes named for their characteristic mode of predation, wherein a fleshy growth from the fish’s head (the esca or illicium) acts as a lure; this is considered analogous to angling. Some anglerfishes are pelagic (live in the open water), while others are benthic (bottom-dwelling). Some live in the deep sea (e.g., Ceratiidae) and others on the continental shelf (e.g., the frogfishes Antennariidae and the monkfish/goosefish Lophiidae). They occur worldwide. Pelagic forms are most laterally (sideways) compressed whereas the benthic forms are often extremely dorsoventrally compressed (depressed) often with large upward pointing mouths.
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  3. Vampire Squid

           The vampire squid is a small, deep-sea cephalopod found throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Unique retractile sensory filaments justify the vampire squid’s placement in its own order: Vampyromorphida (formerly Vampyromorpha), which shares similarities with both squid and octopuses. As a phylogenetic relict it is the only known surviving member of its order, first described and originally classified as an octopus in 1903 by German teuthologist Carl Chun, but later assigned to a new order together with several extinct taxa.
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  4. Firefly Squid

           Watasenia scintillans, also known as the sparkling enope squid or firefly squid, is a species of squid in the family Enoploteuthidae. It is the sole species in the genus Watasenia.
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  5. Colossal Squid

           The colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, from Greek mesos (middle), nychus (claw), and teuthis (squid)), sometimes called the Antarctic or giant cranch squid, is believed to be the largest squid species in terms of mass. It is the only known member of the genus Mesonychoteuthis. It is known from only a few specimens, and current estimates put its maximum size at 12–14 m (39–46 ft) long, based on analysis of smaller and immature specimens, making it the largest known invertebrate.
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  6. Cookie Cutter Shark

           The cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis), also called the cigar shark, is a species of small dogfish shark in the family Dalatiidae. This shark occurs in warm, oceanic waters worldwide, particularly near islands, and has been recorded from as deep as 3.7 km (2.3 mi). It migrates vertically up to 3 km (1.9 mi) every day, approaching the surface at dusk and descending with the dawn. Reaching only 42–56 cm (17–22 in) in length, the cookiecutter shark has a long, cylindrical body with a short, blunt snout, large eyes, two tiny spineless dorsal fins, and a large caudal fin. It is dark brown in color, with light-emitting photophores covering its underside except for a dark “collar” around its throat and gill slits. The name “cookiecutter shark” refers to its feeding habit of gouging round plugs, like a cookie cutter, out of larger animals. Marks made by cookiecutter sharks have been found on a wide variety of marine mammals and fishes, as well as on submarines, undersea cables, and even human bodies. It also consumes whole smaller prey such as squid. Cookiecutter sharks have adaptations for hovering in the water column and likely rely on stealth and subterfuge to capture more active prey. Its dark collar seems to mimic the silhouette of a small fish, while the rest of its body blends into the downwelling light via its ventral photophores. When a would-be predator approaches the lure, the shark attaches itself using its suctorial lips and specialized pharynx and neatly excises a chunk of flesh using its bandsaw-like set of lower teeth. This species has been known to travel in schools. Though rarely encountered because of its oceanic habitat, a handful of documented attacks on humans were apparently caused by cookiecutter sharks. Nevertheless, this diminutive shark is not regarded as highly dangerous. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the cookiecutter shark under Least Concern, as it is widely distributed, has no commercial value, and is not particularly susceptible to fisheries.
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  7. Flashlight Fish

           The flashlight fish are a family, the Anomalopidae, of beryciform fish. There are some unrelated fish with similar features, some of which are also called flashlight fish. Notable among these are the deep sea lanternfish, of the family Myctophidae, of which there are over 200 species. Flashlight fishes live in tropical waters across the world. Some species move to shallow waters or coral during the night, but otherwise, they are exclusively deep water fish. They are typically about 14 cm (5.5 in) in adult length, although some species reach twice this size. They feed on small crustaceans. Flashlight fish are named for their large bioluminescent organs. These are located beneath the eyes and contain luminous bacteria. Two methods are used by different species for controlling light emission, either a shutter-like lid is raised over the organ or the organ is turned downward into a pouch. The light is used for predator avoidance, to attract prey, and for communication.
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  8. Viperfish

          A viperfish is a saltwater fish in the genus Chauliodus, with long, needle-like teeth and hinged lower jaws. They grow to lengths of 30 to 60 cm (12 – 24 inches). Viperfish stay near lower depths (250–5,000 feet) in the daytime and shallow at night. Viperfish mainly stay in tropical and temperate waters. It is one of the fiercest predators in the very deep part of the sea and is believed to attack its prey by luring the victim close to itself with a light producing organ. This organ is called a photophore and is located on the end of its dorsal spine. It flashes this natural light on and off while at the same time moving the dorsal spine around like a fishing rod and hanging completely still in the water, and also uses the voluntary natural light producing organ to communicate to its potential mates and rivals. Viperfish vary in color between green, silver and black. It uses its fang-like teeth to immobilize its prey, and would not be able to close its mouth because of their length if it were not able to curve them behind its head. The first vertebra behind the head of the viperfish is known to absorb the shock of its attacks, which are mainly targeted against dragonfish and other small creatures. They are able to undergo long periods with scarcely any food. Viperfish are believed to live from 30 to 40 years in the wild, but in captivity they rarely live more than a few hours. Some species of dolphins and sharks are known to prey upon viperfish. Scientists believe that viperfish can swim at a speed of two body lengths per second, but this is not yet an official speed.
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  9. Coral

           Corals are marine animals in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual “polyps.” The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton. A coral “head” is a colony of myriad genetically identical polyps. Each polyp is a spineless animal typically only a few millimeters in diameter and a few centimeters in length. A set of tentacles surround a central mouth opening. An exoskeleton is excreted near the base. Over many generations, the colony thus creates a large skeleton that is characteristic of the species. Individual heads grow by asexual reproduction of polyps. Corals also breed sexually by spawning: polyps of the same species release gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon. Although corals can catch small fish and plankton, using stinging cells on their tentacles, most corals obtain the majority of their energy and nutrients from photosynthetic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae that live within the coral’s tissue. Such corals require sunlight and grow in clear, shallow water, typically at depths shallower than 60 m (200 ft). Corals can be major contributors to the physical structure of the coral reefs that develop in tropical and subtropical waters, such as the enormous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Other corals do not have associated algae and can live in much deeper water, with the cold-water genus Lophelia surviving as deep as 3,000 m (9,800 ft). Examples live on the Darwin Mounds located north-west of Cape Wrath, Scotland. Corals have also been found off the coast of the US in Washington State and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.
  10. Bobtail Squid

           Bobtail squid (order Sepiolida) are a group of cephalopods closely related to cuttlefish. Bobtail squid tend to have a rounder mantle than cuttlefish and have no cuttlebone. They have eight suckered arms and two tentacles and are generally quite small (typical male mantle length being between 1 and 8 cm). Sepiolids live in shallow coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean and some parts of the Indian Ocean as well as in shallow waters on the west coast of the Cape Peninsula off South Africa. Like cuttlefish, they can swim by either using the fins on their mantle or by jet propulsion. They are also known as dumpling squid (owing to their rounded mantle) or stubby squid.
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  11. Pincone Fish

           Pinecone fishes are small and unusual beryciform marine fish of the family Monocentridae. The family contains just four species in two genera, one of which is monotypic. Their distribution is limited to tropical and subtropical waters of the Indo-Pacific. Pinecone fishes are popular subjects of public aquaria, but are both expensive and considered a challenge for the hobbyist to maintain.
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  12. Motyxia

           Motyxia, or the Sierra luminous millipedes, is a genus of cyanide-producing millipedes in the order Polydesmida endemic to the southern Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi, and Santa Monica mountain ranges of California. Members of this genus are blind and produce cyanide (like most species in the order Polydesmida). One of the most remarkable features of these millipedes is their ability to glow at a peak wavelength of 495 nm. This is the only known instance of bioluminescence in the entire millipede class Diplopoda, occurring only in eight species of the genus Motyxia.
  13. Firefly

           Lampyridae is a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged beetles, and commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous crepuscular use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies produce a “cold light,” with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. This chemically produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green, or pale-red, with wavelengths from 510 to 670 nm. About 2,000 species of firefly are found in temperate and tropical environments. Many are in marshes or in wet, wooded areas where their larvae have abundant sources of food. These larvae emit light and are often called “glowworms,” in particular, in Eurasia. In the Americas, “glow worm” also refers to the related Phengodidae. In many species, both male and female fireflies have the ability to fly, but in some species, females are flightless.
  14. Gulper Eel

           The Saccopharyngiformes are an order of unusual ray-finned fish, superficially similar to eels, but with many internal differences. Most of the fish in this order are deep-sea types known from only a handful of specimens, such as the pelican eel. Saccopharyngiformes are also bioluminescent in several species. Some, such as the “swallowers”, can live as deep as 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in the ocean, well into the aphotic zone. Saccopharyngiforms lack several bones, such as the symplectic bone, the bones of the opercle, and ribs. They also have no scales, pelvic fins, or swim bladder. The jaws are quite large, lined with small teeth, and several types are notable for being able to consume fish larger than themselves. Their myomeres (muscle segments) are V-shaped instead of W-shaped as in all other fishes, and their lateral lines have no pores, instead being modified to groups of elevated tubules.
  15. Glowworm
           Lampyris noctiluca, the common glow-worm of Europe, is a firefly species of the genus Lampyris. These are beetles, as evidenced by the hard cases which close over the wings when they are not in use. Lampyris noctiluca presents a conspicuous sexual dimorphism. The males are winged, with brown elytra, a clearer pronotum and a large brown spot in the middle, while females are larviforme, wings are missing and they are often twice the size of the males (up to 25 mm or 1 inch in length). These beetles use their bioluminescence to attract mates. The adult females are mostly famed for their glow, although all stages of their life cycle are capable of glowing. In Britain, this species is fairly common compared to its cousin Phosphaenus hemipterus, the lesser glow worm, which is very rare.
  16. Tropical Land Snail

           Quantula striata, also known as Dyakia striata, is a species of medium-sized, air-breathing, tropical land snail. It is a terrestrial, pulmonate, gastropod mollusk in the family Dyakiidae. This species appears to be unique among terrestrial gastropods in that it is bioluminescent: Its eggs glow in the dark, and juveniles and most adults give off flashes of green light. It is the only species in the genus Quantula.
  17. Hatchetfishes

           Marine hatchetfishes or deep-sea hatchetfishes are small deep-sea mesopelagic ray-finned fish of the stomiiform subfamily Sternoptychinae. They should not be confused with the freshwater hatchetfishes, which are not particularly closely related Teleostei in the characiform family Gasteropelecidae. The scientific name means “Sternoptyx-subfamily,” from Sternoptyx (the type genus) + the standard animal family suffix “-inae.” It ultimately derives from Ancient Greek stérnon (“breast”) + ptýx (“a fold/crease”) + Latin forma (“external form”), the Greek part in reference to the thorax shape of marine hatchetfishes.
  18. Antarctic Krill

    Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, is a species of krill found in the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean. It is a small, swimming crustacean that lives in large schools, called swarms, sometimes reaching densities of 10,000–30,000 individual animals per cubic meter. It feeds directly on minute phytoplankton, thereby using the primary production energy that the phytoplankton originally derived from the sun in order to sustain their pelagic (open ocean) life cycle. It grows to a length of 6 cm (2.4 in), weighs up to 2 grams, and can live for up to six years. It is a key species in the Antarctic ecosystem and is, in terms of biomass, probably the most abundant animal species on the planet (approximately 500 million tonnes).
  19. Links: Top 100 Animals, Top Ten Bioluminescent Plants,,