Chemistry

Bioluminescence Explained or what is Bioluminescence



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Bioluminescence is the term describing the emission of light by living organisms as a result of various biochemical mechanisms involving a catalyzing enzyme. Although various species could have different processes in the production of light, the occurrence of bioluminescence will differ from other means of light production in that it occurs in living organisms while the process is being catalyzed by an enzymatic reaction.

Where bioluminescence can be detected?

Bioluminescence can be detected in abundance among organisms living in the deep seas as this seems to be one of the main methods of communication in such ‘dark’ environments. At the same time, it can be seen in terrestrial organisms as well.

A few examples for creatures producing bioluminescence include different types of bacteria, segmented worms and beetles such as fireflies, railroad worms as well as different types of algae. Furthermore, shrimp, ostracod, squid, clams, jellyfish, hydroids, pony fish, flashlight fish, hatchet fish, and sharks are also considered as having the possibility of bioluminescence.

What is the mechanism of bioluminescence?

Although there are different pathways in which an organisms produce bioluminescence, all organisms do have several characteristics in common. Among them, the elements involved in the process are rather important. Thus, according to scientists studying this phenomenon, bioluminescent reactions involve an oxidation process of a molecule known as luciferin through a catalyzing enzyme known as luciferase. However, certain organisms may have the luciferins already oxidized in which case the molecules involved are given the name, photoproteins which is a stabilized reaction intermediate.

Why do organisms need to emit light?

Scientists believe that there are several different uses of bioluminescence among different creatures depending on their environment and physiological processes. Among these uses, having a camouflage effect as in the case of certain squids, attraction of both pray as well as mates, repelling of predators through confusion, communication as well as illumination as in the case of black dragon fish which produces a red glow to recognize red pigmented prey in deep waters, should be highlighted.

What are the potential biological uses of bioluminescence for humans?

The use of bioluminescence has become one of the main fields of study in biotechnology and there are many probable uses presently under extensive research. Among these uses, energy saving uses have been leading the pack. Bioluminescent trees on either side of the road which can reduce the cost of street lighting, Christmas trees which glow on their own…etc are some of these potentially energy saving uses. At the same time, research is in place for developing bio-identifiers to detect escaped convicts and mental patients, detecting bacterial species in suspected corpuses, to detecting bacterial contamination of water and meat products…etc.


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