Who doesn’t like the mystery of glowing objects? When things glow, they are more fun to play with, more fun to watch, and we can’t take our eyes off their magic. Let’s face it. A glowing effect ‘ups’ the coolness factor in just about everything!
When asked to name familiar things that glow in the dark, people typically list concert glow sticks, Halloween glow necklaces, black lights, glow in the dark stickers and similar items. But did you know that there are many things that glow naturally in our world? Thanks to Mother Nature, specific living creatures glow in the dark on their own, some dating back to very early ages.
These extraordinary living creatures glow due to a property known as bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is the self-production and emission of light by living organisms. While pretty cool to observe, their glowing light actually serves one or more biological purposes, such as attracting a mate, communicating, catching prey or simply confusing their predators. Several forms of fungi, microorganisms and marine life are bioluminescent. Many land insects such as fireflies, click beetles, and glowworms also emit their own magical glow at just the right biological moment.
Deep Sea Glow
One area rich in bioluminescent creatures is the ocean. The ocean alone is filled with a vast number of living creatures that glow. From fish to worms to plankton, the ocean seems to have its own form of night light, with an abundant array of illuminating colors beautiful in their own right. By some estimates, up to 90% of deep-sea creatures produce some form of bioluminescent light. Because the red end of the visible light spectrum is absorbed before reaching the deep sea, most marine light emitted is blue and green glow.
For some species of fish, the glow occurs only under certain light conditions. On the coast of the British West Indies, the Bloody Bay Wall is a vertical cliff going straight down 1,000 feet into the ocean. Here you will find stunning luminescent coral growing in leaps and bounds. Attracting divers worldwide, this is one of very few places to showcase both bioluminescent and biofluorescent coral. The latter occurs by absorbing light energy and then emitting it as a glow, similar to Lunabrite glow materials that absorb UV light and then emit colorful glow. Bioluminescent coral produces glow naturally, without any outer light source.
The Magic of Fireflies
Many of us have rich childhood memories of running around the backyard with a mason jar, excitedly trying to catch those fun little creatures blinking on dark summer nights. Sometimes called lightning bugs, fireflies are probably the most commonly observed bioluminescent insect. With over 2000 species, they are quite abundantly found on almost every continent. Males and females flash back and forth as a way of communicating to each other, attracting mates in their own unique ways.
As mentioned earlier, select mushroom species also have bioluminescent properties. In parts of Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, the bitter oyster mushroom glows green in the night. These wild mushrooms are found in clusters on dead logs or in holes of living trees.
The orange jack o’ lantern mushroom emits an alluring blue-green glow from its gills. However as captivating as it appears visually, this is definitely not an edible variety, so enjoy the glowing luminescence but don’t take it home with you. Take a walk deep into the woods and you may come across one of over 70 species of bioluminescent fungi we call glowing mushrooms.
The glowing creations in Nature are irresistible. With eye catching colors and vivid forms of glow, these hidden treasures are magnificent and hypnotizing. The most inspired creations and ideas can stem from what surrounds us naturally. We are sometimes lucky enough to capture a bit of the magical essence that generates so much attention. To those of us who love glow, bioluminescence is just one of those gifts from nature we find endlessly enchanting.