Bioluminescence Essay

1554 words - 7 pages

The phenomenon of bioluminescence has been studied for years now. The most commonly known terrestrial bioluminescing animals are the Lampyridea. More commonly known as fireflies or lightning bugs, these insects belong to the order of Coleoptera otherwise known as beetles (Mckenzie, 2001; Sharp, 2001; Vencl et al, 2004). This paper will focusing on two well known species, the Photinus pyralis and the Photuris visericolor (Silva et al, 2009) which have both been heavily studied.
Photinus and Photuris are North American species who dominate the east coast. The size and shape of these two species are very similar and the bauplan or body plan consist of a hard exoskeleton with a body composed of three parts: a head, thorax and abdomen. The abdomen houses the light emitting organs and is the main source of communication between the Lampyridae family. One of the main differences in the two species is that the Photuris female has a complex head in comparison to the Photinus. The Photuris has a mouth comprised of a mandible, maxillae and upper lip (Mckenzie 2001; Sharp, 2001). These two species are predominately nocturnal and can be found active during late spring to early fall months out in meadows, woodland areas close to the treeline and close to streams where the communication using bioluminescence can clearly bee seen by an observer. During the day these two species stay under debris such as bark and decaying vegetation (Mckenzie, 2001; Sharp, 2001).
Now that there is an understanding of who these two species are, lets take a deeper look at the purpose and mechanics of the phenomenon bioluminescence in which theses species use to communicate. As this study progresses the questions: What is bioluminescence? How is bioluminescence produced? Why is bioluminescence used?; will be answered.

Bioluminescence is a light emitting phenomenon that occurs in only a select few organism. The phenomenon occurs due to an excited state of molecular reactions (Silva et al, 2012). Bioluminescence occurs in the abdominal region of these two said name species and each have a different size light emitting organ. The females have a small light emitting abdominal portion located medially in the abdominal region. The males light emitting portion is much larger than the females, it covers from medial abdomen to distal abdominal region (Case, 2004; Timmins et al, 2001)
The mechanism of Lampyridea bioluminescence is still not fully understood. While the mechanism of light production itself is very well known, the mechanisms of how the Lamyridea produce rapid flashing during their courtship display is not (Timmins et al, 2001). The basic light emittance occurs in a step wise molecular function, Step 1: Photinus pyralis luciferase, a class of oxidative enzymes used to catalyze a bioluminescent reaction, catalyzes the formation of an adenylyl intermediate. The formation of this intermediate is formed from luciferin, a light emitting compound, and...

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