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Bioluminescence

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Celebaelin
952578.  Sat Nov 24, 2012 3:53 am Reply with quote

Wow, I'd probably never have seen this thread if it wasn't for the above post. Most of the pertinent stuff looks like it's been said but I'd just like to reference Richard Dawkins for a moment. In The Blind Watchmaker he points out that fireflies use bioluminescence to attract mates rather than as a light source for hunting as the light is easy to see but hard to see by as it would have to cast many more photons onto its surroundings to illuminate them than to illuminate a portion of itself. In the same way a lighthouse is easy to see but doesn't help you see anything except itself. Dawkins mentions an early German scientific notion that you could run lighthouses on firefly extract of some variety (much pumping of fluid would be required but I guess theoretically...)! I suspect that all bioluminescence generated by preditors is by way of a lure mimicking the sexual bioluminescence of other species and it doesn't aid their vision much. There are however other functions that haven't been mentioned as far as I can tell - first there's bioluminescence as an aposematic deterrant i.e. a warning of unpalatability.

Animal Behaviour Volume 36, Issue 2, April 1988, Pages 493501 Brittle-star bioluminescence functions as an aposematic signal to deter crustacean predators Matthew S. Grober
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aposematism

and secondly there's bioluminescence as camouflage

Journal of Fish Biology Vol 73 Issue 6 Early development of bioluminescence suggests camouflage by counter-illumination in the velvet belly lantern shark Etmopterus spinax (Squaloidea: Etmopteridae) J. M. Claes*, J. Mallefet

Quote:
That's where bioluminescence can provide a chameleonesque disguise. Nearly all krill, the tiny crustaceans that are food for everything from small fish to massive baleen whales, have eyelike structures called photophores on their undersides. The photophores give off light of similar color and intensity to that shining down from above, making the krill semi-invisible from below.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/11/AR2010101104495.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioluminescence#Counterillumination_camouflage

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2460193?uid=3738032&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101410322011

 
Celebaelin
952786.  Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:10 pm Reply with quote

And now, by an odd co-incidence and courtesy of last nights XL, we have the news that humans exhibit bioluminescence too!

Quote:
Although it has been known for many years that all living creatures produce a small amount of light as a result of chemical reactions within their cells, this is the first time light produced by humans has been captured on camera.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/jul/17/human-bioluminescence

Also, while I'm here I should probably mention that bioluminescence is exploited in research as an alternative to radiolabelling; I've actually used this technique as regards immunoassaying.

Annual Review of Analytical Chemistry Vol. 4: 297-319 (Volume publication date July 2011) Bioluminescence and Its Impact on Bioanalysis Daniel Scott, Emre Dikici, Mark Ensor, and Sylvia Daunert

 

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