Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence can be defined as a process carried out by living organisms in which the emission of cold and visible light occurs. This process is related to communication.Did you know that some living beings have the ability to emit light? This ability is known as bioluminescence and plays a key role in biological communication, such as defense, attraction of prey and sexual attraction.

→ In which organisms does bioluminescence occur?

Bioluminescence can be observed mainly in the marine environment, occurring in bacteria , fungi , algae, cnidarians , molluscs , arthropods and fish. It is also observed in the terrestrial environment, occurring in fungi, molluscs and insects.

The insects undoubtedly is the class of terrestrial organisms that more has bioluminescent species. Some have the ability to produce light in specialized organs; others emit light by ingesting other luminescent organisms. In the latter case, we observed that the luminescence cannot be controlled by the animal.

→ How is bioluminescence generated?

Bioluminescence occurs thanks to exothermic chemical reactions in which the oxidation of an organic molecule occurs. In these chemical reactions, the energy of the bonds of the organic compounds is converted into visible light. The molecules, called luciferins, are oxidized and produce excited molecules, which decay and emit light. The enzymes that catalyze this reaction are luciferases.

It is important to note that there are different luciferases, which vary, among other factors, in their chemical nature. For this reason, it is possible to see that bioluminescence appeared in different groups independently several times during the evolution of living organisms.

  • Bioluminescence of fireflies

In fireflies, luciferin is associated with the enzyme luciferase and ATP. Luciferase promotes oxidation of luciferin. Subsequently, the complex is dissociated and a carbon dioxide molecule is eliminated. The oxyluciferin which resulted from the process is excited. Subsequently there is the de-excitation of this molecule and the emission of light.

→ How has bioluminescence been used by man?

Man tries to use bioluminescence in several ways , one of which is the use of luciferases to identify biological processes. It is enough to bind the enzyme to an antibody, for example, that it is possible to identify a disease. Luciferase, in this case, is used as a marker. Bioluminescence has also been observed by researchers who want to use this form of natural light to produce, for example, a tree that emits light and can illuminate cities.

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