Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence

This oversized model represents a jack-o-lantern mushroom around 40 times the mushroom’s actual size. The smaller mushrooms grow on decaying wood in the forests of eastern North America. In one of these types of mushrooms, the honey mushroom, only the mycelia—root-like branches that run through the wood—glow with an eerie light known as foxfire.

This section of the exhibition evokes an evening lit by fireflies, all signaling to one another in their species-specific “language of light.”

Photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu combined slow–shutter speed photos to produce stunning images of firefly signals. This image was photographed in Okayama prefecture, Japan.

This interactive environment introduces visitors to the brilliant light displays of Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico, where high concentrations of microscopic dinoflagellates create a glowing halo around anything that moves through the water.

This large-scale, day-and-night interactive image shows the Cayman Islands’ Bloody Bay Wall, a species-rich coral wall that is home to many bioluminescent and biofluorescent animals. Still relatively pristine, Bloody Bay Wall drops down 1,000 feet.

When this jellyfish--crystal jelly (Aequorea victoria)-- is poked or jostled, spots on its rim light up like an emerald necklace. Its mysterious glow is both bioluminescent and fluorescent. Inside its miniature light organs, a chemical reaction makes blue bioluminescent light, and a fluorescent molecule turns the blue light to green.

Join the Discussion

Please read our Content Guidelines before posting

Close X