Experience the Magic of Bioluminescence


Unbelievably Cool Bioluminescent Organisms in 10 Videos

Bioluminescent animals are definitely amongs the coolest creatures on earth. And that’s not just because they glow. Mostly, they glow for a reason, that’s what make them so amazing! From fish to fungi, these incredible organisms use their natural light to attract food, mates, and even use their bioluminescence for protection. 

The list of bioluminescent animals that populate our world is pretty long, so we came up with a list of our favorite 10 Unbelievably Cool Bioluminescent Organisms to introduce you to some of the most fascinating light producing specimens on Earth.

“Over half of the oxygen on Earth is made from phytoplankton, so to all you dinoflagellates out there: thank you for your beautiful light and for the fresh air we breathe!”

Check out the videos below to see the amazing light shows any of the organisms is producing!

1. Clusterwink Snail (Hinea Brasiliana)

Snails: More than just a Cool Name!

Found in the shorelines of Australia, these small deepwater snails have more than just a cool name – they also have an amazing shell that shines brightly to warn off potential predators. Scientists believe that clusterwink snails use bioluminesce to appear bigger than they really are when predators lurk around them. Marine biologists have recently discovered that the clusterwink shell helps disperse and amplify the light made by the snail inside.

2. Hawaiian Bobtail Squid (Euprymna Scolopes)

Now that’s Friendship!

The Hawaiian bobtail squid is not bioluminescent itself, but it does have an awesome way of emitting light: These cephalopods have a symbiotic relationship with light-producing bacteria, meaning that the squid and bacteria help each other survive in the wild. When born, the Hawaiian bobtail squid produces mucus around their light organ to capture the bioluminescent bacteria. The squid releases the bacteria in the morning so they can replenish themselves and by nighttime the squid’s light organ is full again. The bacteria camouflages the Hawaiian bobtail squid from predators by producing light that hides the squid’s moonlight shadow. In return, the squid feeds the bacteria with a mixture of sugar and amino acids.

3. New Zealand Glow Worm (Arachnocampa Luminosa)

Witness and Incredible Light Show!

Inside the Waitomo Caves in New Zealand, a special event is made possible by the bioluminescent light of the New Zealand Glow Worm. This unique “worm” is actually a larva that produces a silky, mucus-covered thread that hangs from the ceilings of caves to catch insects. Scientists believe that these glow worms use their bluish light to attract insects into the cave and onto their sticky threads.

Another interesting trait of the New Zealand glow worm is its life cycle: The glow worm spends most of its life as a larva, about 6 to 12 months. Then, the larva will start its pupa stage creating a cocoon, glowing periodically for 1 to 2 weeks, at which point a gnat emerges for the sole purpose of reproducing for 2 to 3 days.

4. Dana Octopus Squid – Taningia danae

Shy Deep Sea Creatures

The Tanigia danae uses giant light producing organs at the end of its arms (so called ‘photophores’) to stun predators and preys alike. The Dana octopus squid can grow to be 7 feet in length, and its photophores grow to be about the size of a lemon!

These deep sea creatures are pretty shy, so scientists have had some difficulty studying them. But a few years ago, Japanese scientists were able to film this amazing animal with the help of a remotely operated underwater vehicle named Deep Discovery.

5. Velvet Belly Lantern Shark (Etmopterus Spinax)

Nerves and Hormones Lighting Control

A member of the dogfish shark family, the velvet belly lantern shark is only about half a meter in length. These small sharks were made famous by researchers in 2011 because it was discovered that this shark does not use bacteria or chemical reactions for biolumination, but instead, they rely on nerves and hormones to control their light. It is believed that lantern sharks use their bioluminescence and their naturally shimmering skin to hide from predators, as well as attract mates. Researchers hope to someday learn exactly which substances fuel the shark’s bioluminescence.

6. Hatchetfish (Sternoptyx Obscura)

Fish Controlled Color and Intensity

The ‘hatchetfish’ gets its name from its unique shape: Its large head and small tail looks like the outline of a hatchet. Hatchetfish grow upto 10 cm in length and have big round eyes that point upward so that they can find prey, namely plankton and shrimp. But, just because they are hunters does not mean that they are safe from predators. This is why hatchetfish have evolved bioluminescent underbellies so that they can hide from predators that look up to the light for food. Hatchetfishes have the ability to control the intensity and color of light from their photophores to match the light above them for maximum camouflage.

7. Bamboo Coral (Keratoisis Flexibilis)

Touched Color Brightness

Coral does not look like an animal, but it is! In fact, corals are made from groups of animals called polyps that use limestone in the ocean water to create a hard shell to protect their soft bodies. Coral is known for its beautiful bright colors, but bamboo coral takes its beauty to another level. Blue light shimmers throughout the entire length of the bamboo coral when it is touched. Unfortunately, scientist still do not know why bamboo coral produce their bioluminescent light.

8. Atolla Jellyfish (Atolla Wyvillei)

Alarm! Alarm!

The atolla jellyfish is also known as the “alarm jellyfish” because it uses bioluminescence when it is attacked. But what makes atolla so interesting is that its lights are not used to scare off or confuse its predators, but to call other predators to prey on its attackers. For this jellyfish, bioluminescence is not just a mode of protection: it functions as a way to communicate with other fish.

9. White Spore Mushrooms (Mycenoid Fungi)

Bioluminescent Mushroom Species

Brazil is home to the most bioluminescent mushroom species in the world. Biologists discovered eight new luminescent species of mushrooms in Brazil in 2008 alone. They found that 70% of mycenoid fungi (white spore mushrooms) are bioluminescent, making it the most diverse of all 4 mushroom lineages known to glow.

Biologists still do not fully understand how mushrooms create light, but they note that the chemical process is similar to that of bioluminescent bacteria like dinoflagellates. Mycologists believe that some mushrooms glow to attract animals to help spread spores, while other mushrooms use their luminescence as a defense mechanism, calling the attention of the animals that prey on the insects that feed on the mushrooms.

10. Dinoflagellates (Pyrocystis Fusiformis)

‘Dinoflagellates’ are an incredible species of plankton because they have an internal clock that tells them when to photosynthesize and and when to become bioluminescent. These unicellular organisms use the sun to create energy in much the same way plants do, and they use their bioluminescence at night as an alarm when they’re in danger.

Just another post on bioluminescence, following my earlier posts ‘Biolumenescent Trees‘, ‘Fireflies – Lighting Up the Dark” and “Bioluminescent Plankton. Hope it contributes to an even broader understanding of the ‘Miracle of Light’!

This post was kindly inspired by:
10 Videos of Unbelievable Bioluminescent Organisms on Biopop


Plotting the Path of Light

Plotting the Path of Light: From the burning Ebers of a Camp Fire to the Glow of the Smartphone

And there was Light!
Sunlight has been around since the creation of our planet. Apart from heating the atmosphere, it’s essential in all we do. Allthough we frequently complain about light pollution, we can’t imagine living in complete darkness. ‘Lost in Light‘ – how light pollution affects the nightly sky – was a movie I wrote about earlier. Watch it, it’s amazing!


Shaped by Light
Have you ever thought about how light shaped human being over time? The short animation film on top of this blogpost helps you to understand the path of light over centuries. From the burning ebers of a campfire towards a lighthouse beacon and the articifial light glow of a smartphone. Join us on this history of light!

This blogpost was inspired by National Geographic. The movie in this post was sourced from Stephen Ong Motion.

Windlicht by Roosegaarde – A Celebration of the Beauty of Green Energy

“Windlicht” is an artwork by Studio Roosegaarde showing the beauty of green energy. By means of special software and tracking technology, the windmill blades are detected to rotate at 280 km / hour. Straight green lines of LED light are connecting the blades of the individual windmills. It creates a dynamic play of light and movement.


Linking Light and Landscape

With Windlight, Roosegaarde intends to create the missing link between the Dutch and the beauty of our new landscape. I appreciate this project very much because of its awareness generating power to the crowd. The majority of local citizens may complain for years, see these ‘giants’ as a thorn in the flesh, call it horizon pollution. But times are changing, this next generation 21st century windmills are amidst us and part of our next generations life. While struggle about finding appreciated locations at sea goes on, the need and urgency of renewable energy keeps growing. Windlight can be experienced for free on the Eneco windfarm at Sint Annaland in Zeeland, Netherlands.


Waterlicht on Display in Middelburg, Zeeland, NL

By the way, I heard that the City of Middelburg invited Studio Roosegaarde to illuminate the celebration of 800 years Middelburg City in 2017 by means of it’s Waterlicht installation, an earlier success story of this amazing studio. If you ask me, there’s no more important area in all Western-Europe for raising water flood awareness… Curious to see how that works out!

If you want to learn a bit more on this wonderful area, please refer to the ‘About‘ page of this blog, there’s an impressive movie embedded on this particular area.

Pictures in this post are sourced from Studio Roosegaarde.

Lost in Light – How Light Pollution Affects the Nightly Sky


‘Lost in Light’ is a short film on how light pollution affects the view of the night skies. Shot by Sriram Murali, most shots were taken in California, USA. The movie shows how the view gets progressively better as you move away from the artificial lights.

Finding locations to shoot at every level of light pollution ‘s been quite a challenge for the videographer and getting to the darkest skies with no pollution was a journey on its own.

The night skies remind us of our place in the universe. Imagine if we live under skies full of stars as a tiny part of the cosmos. Imagine kids growing up passionate about astronomy looking for answers.

In reality, most of us live under heavily light polluted skies and some have never even seen the Milky Way. We take the skies for granted and are rather lost in our busy lives without much care for the view of the stars.

Take a moment to ‘break out’ and lose yourself in this wonderful movie!

Sriram Murali – srirammurali.com

Will Luminous Trees be our Future Street Lights?

It may sound lightyears ahead, but in the near future, bioluminescent trees could easily replace Street Lights. Or would it be the road itself lighting the way? Bioluminescence, the ability of small organisms to behave like living night-lights, could lead to some remarkable advances in the public space. Here are some of the greatest examples we’ve ever seen!

Bioluminescence – The Invention

Bioluminescence was “invented” dozens of times in evolutionary history. Scientists may now be able to explain not only why certain mushrooms glow in the dark, but they are nearer to create glowing trees as a novel form of street lighting.

Swapping streetlights with giant light-emitting plants or trees using biomimicry techniques by Daan Roosegaarde.

Daan Roosegaarde – Lighting the Way

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde – known from astonishing projects such as ‘Waterlight‘ and ‘Rainbow Station‘, among many others – is hoping to employ biomimicry to transform your average street-side trees into beacons of light. Like the luminescent abilities of jellyfish, mushrooms or fireflies, splicing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria would open a world of opportunities!

Glow in the Dark

Naturalists in the early 19th century identified fungal growth as the source of the glow from wooden support beams used to shore up mines. Many fungi and mushrooms are now known to glow in the dark, and explanations for why they do it range from it being a useless by-product of metabolism to a sophisticated anti-predator adaptation. The best explanation seems to be that the night-light attracts insects and other animals to the fruiting bodies of fungi, who then spread the spores far and wide.

Glowing ‘Van Gogh Bicycle Path’ by Daan Roosegaarde


Fireflies are likely the best known example of bioluminescence in nature. The insect controls the light it emits from its light organ by adding oxygen to a mix of other chemicals involved in the light-emitting reaction. As larvae, the light acts as a warning to predators that they don’t taste very nice, and as adults the light is used to identify members of the same species and to attract the opposite sex.

Bioluminescence – The Future!

I am thrilled to see how bioluminescent technology finds its way in various in- and outdoor applications and how it contributes to a safer world! I am sure this is just the beginning of many more to come!

Continue reading

Light at Play – Creating Vitreous Light Effects by RGB LED Lighting Application

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“Lustre: The Way Light interacts with the Surface of a Crystal, a Rock, or a Mineral”.

The word ‘Lustre’ (also referred to as ‘Luster’) traces its origins back to the latin word ‘lux’, meaning “light”. Generally, it implies a radiance, gloss, or sparking brilliance appearance of an object lit by day- or artificial light.


A variety of terms are used to describe this sparkling light effect, such as earthy, metallic, greasy, and silky. Similarly, the term ‘vitreous’ (derived again from Latin, here from the word glass, vitrum) refers to a ‘glassy lustre’ as we display it here.

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Lustre varies over a wide continuum, and so there are no rigid boundaries between the different types of lustre.
The terms are frequently combined to describe intermediate types of lustre.

It liturally became my passion to mess around with RGB LED light units and transparent items, such as optics or, like in this case balls of broken crystal glass to optimize the lustre effect. Exciting to see what happens!

If you want more footage, just refer to my Pinterest board ‘Lustre RGB Effects‘. Enjoy!

Lighting Up the Night – Fireflies Blazing Beautiful Patterns in the Dark

Remember watching fireflies light up your back yard on hot summer nights? Fireflies are beautiful, mysterious, and magical. Firefly populations are dwindling all over the world. Here’s a small post on these magical creatures – the most efficient lights in the world!

Fireflies Talk: the Language of Light

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. Howeer, in most situations the both sexes glow. Very often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

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Scientists believe they may flash to drive away predators, claim territory, and communicate with others of their species as well—although the finer points of their language have never been studied extensively. One thing’s for sure, though: without those flashing lights, there could be no fireflies.

Fireflies produce “cold light”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

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Fireflies – How does it Work?

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

Fireflies have a short ‘Lifespan’

To stay a bit in ‘the language of light’: the lifespan of fireflies isn’t that long as you may expect. Although being very low consumers of energy with a high eficacy, an adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one year, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation.

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Fireflies – what’s more?

There’s certainly many more to say about these intriguing creatures, but let’s finish with a great movie with night and day timelapses and some references. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in the phenomenon of ‘bioluminescence’, I can recommend you reading one of my other posts ‘Bioluminescent Plankton Create Magical Blue Imagery at Night‘.

The stunning time-lapse images in this article were created by photographer and Artist Tsuneaki Hiramatsu for the Daily Mail.