Bioluminescence In Nature Essay

846 words - 4 pages

Human beings have been awed by the mystery of bioluminescence since before the time of Aristotle. And Charles Darwin himself described this phenomenon as puzzling. Why did some creatures evolve to produce light, while other similar creatures did not? Bioluminescence, by definition, seems boring and uninspiring. It is the chemical creation of light by living organisms. Seeing it, however, raises questions and sparks the imagination. How did these creatures evolve this ability, what is its function, what chemicals are responsible for this amazing show of lights and how can we use it to benefit humanity?
Curiously enough, not all creatures that luminesce are related. Their bioluminescence ...view middle of the document...

This behavior is called “counter illumination”. This fish only glows so that upwards looking predators can see it. It is a very specific glow pattern that targets a wide range of large predators (Yong.2013.para 1-10).
The chemical reactions that create this useful tool? They vary in several ways, but one thing that can be relied upon is that they require oxygen. The most common chemical reactions require: substrates (luciferins) and enzymes (luciferases) (Wilson. 1998. P 197). Additional characteristics that can impact things like color are certain amino acid sequences. This complex chemical reaction happens very quickly and emits light for a very short period of time. The end result is light in the form of a photon and a small amount of carbon dioxide. In order for light to be successfully created, a minimum of two chemicals and oxygen are needed. The substrate most commonly utilized in this process is luciferin with the enzyme catalyst lucerifase. This process only loses 2% of its energy to heat, most of the energy released will be light. This can be seen in the diagram below (Biolume. 2007. p 1).
So how can humanity possibly benefit from this incredible natural ability? The answer is complicated. We are not going to harness it to power cities across America any time soon. It is not surprising that the best application to do date, is medical research. Scientists are using Bioluminescence to trace the progression of infectious diseases. It has also proven to be a useful tool in AIDS research. By inserting bioluminescence into a bacteria scientists have been able to observe the progression of infection and the effect of antibiotics and medications. Bioluminescence has supported in the...

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