Your Guide to Glowing Organisms

Both beautiful to behold and somewhat mysterious, bioluminescence has arisen a number of times in the history of the life on earth. The exact ingredients can differ slightly, but all bioluminescent creatures glow due to a standard chemical reaction: a molecule called a luciferin is oxidized by an enzyme luciferase, generating a cool light. Animals with this ability use it for a variety of purposes, from misdirecting predators to attracting mates. In the graphic below, designer Eleanor Lutz shows us the amazing diversity of light-generating organisms and their relation to each other on the tree of life.

bioluminescent creatures

Graphic courtesy of Eleanor Lutz


The Origins Of Marine Bioluminescence: Turning Oxygen Defence
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Haddock, S.H.D.; McDougall, C.M.; Case, J.F. “The Bioluminescence Web Page”. Accessed August 5, 2014.