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    Bioluminescence
    K-12 Experiments & Background Information
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    Bioluminescence Experiments

    • Growing Dinoflagellates (marine plankton) at home [View Experiment]
    • Observation and stimulation of bioluminescence and chemiluminescence [View Experiment]
    • Observations, experiments and photography with respect to the bioluminescence and behavior of Collembola (springtail) [View Experiment]
    • Chemiluminescence / Bioluminescence Science Fair Projects & Experiments [View Experiment]
    • Bioluminescence in Fireflies [View Experiment]
    • An experiment with bioluminescent dinoflagellates [View Experiment]
    • An experiment that demonstrates that the luminescence of fireflies is an enzyme-substrate reaction [View Experiment]
    • Anurida granaria (arthropod) bioluminescence experiment [View Experiment]
    • Bioluminescence in Krill and Other Deep Sea Creatures for Kids! [View Experiment]
    Bioluminescence Background Information

    Definition

    Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism.

    Basics

    Bioluminescence is the form of light made when living creatures use oxygen to produce light. Most of these creatures live deep underwater, for example Anglerfish, Jellyfish and Viperfish. Some creatures which create bioluminsence on land include Foxfire, fireflies and Will-O'-the-Wisps.

    Topics of Interest

    Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. Its name is a hybrid word, originating from the Greek bios for "living" and the Latin lumen "light". Bioluminescence is a naturally occurring form of chemiluminescence where energy is released by a chemical reaction in the form of light emission. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is involved in most instances. The chemical reaction can occur either inside or outside the cell. In bacteria, the expression of genes related to bioluminescence is controlled by an operon called the Lux operon. Bioluminescence has appeared independently several times (up to 30 or more) throughout evolution.

    Bioluminescence occurs in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as microorganisms and terrestrial animals. Symbiotic organisms carried within larger organisms are also known to bioluminesce.

    Bioluminescence is a form of luminescence, or "cold light" emission; less than 20% of the light generates thermal radiation. It should not be confused with fluorescence, phosphorescence or refraction of light.

    Ninety percent of deep-sea marine life is estimated to produce bioluminescence in one form or another. Most marine light-emission belongs in the blue and green light spectrum, the wavelengths that can transmit through the seawater most easily. However, certain loose-jawed fish emit red and infrared light and the genus Tomopteris emits yellow bioluminescence.

    Non-marine bioluminescence is less widely distributed, but a larger variety in colours is seen. The two best-known forms of land bioluminescence are fireflies and glow worms. Other insects, insect larvae, annelids, arachnids and even species of fungi have been noted to possess bioluminescent abilities.

    Some forms of bioluminescence are brighter (or only exist) at night, following a circadian rhythm.

    There are five main accepted theories for the evolution of bioluminescent traits: counterillumination camouflage, prey attraction, repelling a potential predator, communication, Illumination.

    Biotechnology applications: Bioluminescent organisms are a target for many areas of research. Luciferase systems (oxidative enzymes used in bioluminescence) are widely used in the field of genetic engineering as reporter genes. Luciferase systems have also been harnessed for biomedical research using bioluminescence imaging.

    Proposed applications of engineered bioluminescence:

    • Glowing trees to line highways to save government electricity bills
    • Christmas trees that do not need lights, reducing danger from electrical fires
    • Agricultural crops and domestic plants that luminesce when they need watering
    • New methods for detecting bacterial contamination of meats and other foods
    • Bio-identifiers for escaped convicts and mental patients
    • Detecting bacterial species in suspicious corpses
    • Novelty pets that bioluminesce (rabbits, mice, fish etc.)

    Bioluminescent organisms: All cells produce some form of bioluminescence within the electromagnetic spectrum, but most are neither visible nor noticeable to the naked eye. Every organism's bioluminescence is unique in wavelength, duration, timing and regularity of flashes.

    A biophoton (from the Greek bιο meaning "life" and photo meaning "light"), synonymous with ultraweak photon emission, low-level biological chemiluminescence, ultraweak bioluminescence, dark luminescence and other similar terms, is a photon of light emitted from a biological system and detected by biological probes as part of the general weak electromagnetic radiation of living biological cells. Biophotons and their study should not be confused with bioluminescence, a term generally reserved for higher intensity luciferin / luciferase systems

    De Phenomenis in Orbe Lunae is a 1612 book by Collegio Romano philosophy professor Giulio Cesare de Galla that presents the first account in the Western world of bioluminescence.

    Foxfire is the term for the bioluminescence created in the right conditions by a few species of fungi that decay wood. The luminescence is often attributed to members of the genus Armillaria, the Honey mushroom, though others are reported, and as many as 71 individual species have been identified. On the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin it was used for light in the Turtle, an early submarine. In the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the characters of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer use foxfire as a source of light in order to dig a tunnel.

    Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) is a technology developed over the past decade that allows for the noninvasive study of ongoing biological processes in small laboratory animals. Recently, bioluminescence tomography (BLT) has become possible and several systems have become commercially available.

    Milky seas is a condition on the open ocean where large areas of seawater (up to 6,000 square miles) are filled with bioluminescent bacteria, causing the ocean to uniformly glow an eerie blue at night. The condition has been present in mariner's tales for centuries – notably appearing in chapter 24 of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – but until recently it has not been rigorously documented. There have been 235 documented sightings of milky seas since 1915 - mostly concentrated in the north-western Indian Ocean and near Indonesia.

    Lampyridae is a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged beetles, and commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous crepuscular use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies are capable of producing a "cold light", containing no ultraviolet or infrared rays. This chemically-produced light, emitted from the lower abdomen, may be yellow, green, or pale red in color, and has a wavelength from 510 to 670 nanometers.

    Luciferase is a generic term for the class of oxidative enzymes used in bioluminescence and is distinct from a photoprotein. One famous example is the firefly luciferase from the firefly Photinus pyralis. ("Firefly luciferase" as a laboratory reagent usually refers to P. pyralis luciferase although recombinant luciferases from several other species of fireflies are also commercially available.)

    Vibrio fischeri is a gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium found globally in marine environments. V. fischeri has bioluminescent properties, and is found predominantly in symbiosis with various marine animals, such as the bobtail squid. It is heterotrophic and moves by means of flagella. Free living V. fischeri survive on decaying organic matter. The bacterium is a key research organism for examination of microbial bioluminescence, quorum sensing, and bacterial-animal symbiosis.

    Chemiluminescence (sometimes "chemoluminescence") is the emission of light with limited emission of heat (luminescence), as the result of a chemical reaction.

    Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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