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The elongate jewel squid (Histioteuthis reversa), so called because the photophores festooning its body make it appear bejewelled
The elongate jewel squid (Histioteuthis reversa), so called because the photophores festooning its body make it appear bejewelled
Diagram of a cephalopod's photophore, in vertical section
Diagram of a cephalopod's photophore, in vertical section

A photophore is a glandular organ that appears as luminous spots on various marine animals, including fish and cephalopods. The organ can be simple, or as complex as the human eye; equipped with lenses, shutters, color filters and reflectors.[1] The bioluminescence can variously be produced from compounds during the digestion of prey, from specialized mitochondrial cells in the organism, called photocytes ("light producing" cells), or, similarly, associated with symbiotic bacteria in the organism that is cultured.

The character of photophores is important in the identification of deep sea fishes. Photophores on fish are used for attracting food or for camouflage from predators by counter-illumination.

Photophores are found on some cephalopods, including firefly squid, the sparkling enope or firefly squid, which can create impressive light displays.[1]

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  • What Makes Some Animals Glow?
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  • Bioluminescence


we’ve all chased lightning bugs as kids, but what’s going on behind those glowing behinds? Hey Everyone Julia here for DNews I grew up in the midwest and spent my childhood summers chasing around lightening bugs. There’s something about them that just captures the imagination. But such powers of light don’t belong to just those bugs. Bioluminescence is found in a lot of different animals! imagine waves of a bright lights trailing behind your ships. Such a phenomenon was part of sailors stories for centuries. It’s even described in Jules Verne “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” as a “milky sea”. But it’s not just a story or a mystery, really it’s all just chemistry. Most of the time it’s just two chemicals in particular: luciferin and luciferase. Luciferase, is an enzyme which binds oxygen and luciferin together. This reaction creates a lot of energy, and rather than being released as heat, it gives off light. The color depends on the way the luciferin molecules are arranged. While some organisms produce luciferin, others have to eat the things that produce the chemical. Or in the case of the angler fish, they house the bacteria that makes the chemical. When you think of glowing creatures you might think of only lightning bugs or deep sea creatures. But bioluminescence is surprisingly common. It happens anytime time of day or depth of the ocean. So why do they do it? Well it’s not for generating heat. Bioluminescence is a "cold light." Cold light means less than 20% of the light generates thermal radiation, or heat. Some creatures like the anglerfish use this trick as bait to lure in prey, other species use it as a warning, the glow worm signals “I’m poisonous!”, or some species of fish release a flash of bioluminescent goo to confuse their attackers. The hatchet fish uses it for camouflage. Their undersides are lined with photophores, organs filled with those glowing chemicals. This tricks any predators that might attack from below. Normally a fish's silhouette against the sky gives it away, but these photophores make the hatchet fish blend in. Pretty cool right? And a lot of other animals use bioluminescence for communication, Some scientists even think it could be the most common form of communication on the planet! You might be familiar with this kind of light display from lightning bugs signaling to find a mate. Some organisms shine when startled or scared. The Milky Seas in 20,000 leagues was really a bloom of algae, like the dinoflagellate, Noctiluca Scintillans. When these tiny guys get disturbed by a boat or cresting wave, it triggers the chemical reaction. And they light up the sea. Such dinoflagellates are currently putting on quite a show off the coast of Tasmania. But this is different from fluorescence. Fluorescence is when an animal has proteins that reflect light. Kind of like how certain things glow under a blacklight, some animals only glow under certain wavelengths. Like the elegant jelly which reflects blue light. Scientists genetically modified some animals like rabbits and cats with these fluorescent proteins from jellyfish. Yes glowing cats exist. In fact the development of this technique won a Nobel Prize in 2008. By creating glowing cats or sheep, researchers can track the formation of certain biological processes like nerves growing or diseases spreading. Other researchers in San Francisco are creating glowing plants and trees that could light up the night without using power. To find out how check out this video right here! What’s your favorite light up animal? I’m kind of obsessed with hankler.. I mean angler fish.. let us know down the comments below…

See also


  1. ^ a b "Cephalopod Photophore Terminology". Retrieved 2012-08-30.
This page was last edited on 30 September 2018, at 16:52
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