How Bioluminescence Work
In the last post Organisms That Light Up, I talked Top five bioluminescent creatures. But let’s see how these organisms are able to pull the trick of lighting. Bioluminescence is shown by mostly deep sea creatures. There’re certain creatures that live above the ocean floor(Firefly). There is almost no fresh water organism that lights up.
Humans have developed flashlight, torches, and whatnot to get light when required but Deep sea creatures don’t have this liberty. Deep-sea creatures have bioluminescence because they need to navigate or attract prey. There certain instances where they use bioluminescence to attract their partners.
Lights can be generated using luminescence and incandescence. Incandescence is a method of light generation using heat. This method is used by in our bulb and day to day life. This form of light generates a lot of heat and this wastes energy. This method of light generation is inefficient. Whereas nature uses luminescence, this method produces what we call cold light as only 20% of light emitted generates heat.
Almost all the light generated is due to chemical reactions. While every organism uses a different chemical to generate heat but two chemicals luciferin and ether luciferase are mostly used. Scientists still don’t how most of the organisms create a light but from what we know most of them use chemicals mentioned above. Luciferin is a substrate & Luciferase is an enzyme. If you don’t know what substrate is? Then think of substrate as something on which enzymes work and the chemical reaction happens. The colors which come out are results of arrangements of a molecule of Luciferin.
Some organisms synthesize luciferin on their own but others acquire it from other animals. There are other processes also to generate the light which requires the presence of other such chemicals such as oxygen or adenosine, ions of the elements calcium.
Various organisms glow for various time periods like foxfire can emit light continuously. Most organisms emit light for a few seconds. Some can glow in more than one color.