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Bioluminescent Organisms: Facts and Photos of 11 Glowing Creatures

The author is a research enthusiast. She studied botany and zoology as major subjects in her bachelor's program.

Bioluminescent jellyfish

Bioluminescent jellyfish

List of Bioluminescent Organisms

Many incredible creatures amaze the human mind. The glow of an insect at night presents a magical scene. The glowing of any organism is because of its bioluminescent property. Bioluminescence is the emission of light through a living organism. It widely occurs in marine animals, some fungus, and arthropods. Here, I am sharing the list of some amazing creatures that are bioluminescent.

1. The Pineapple Fish—The Glory of the Sea

Cleidopus Gloriamaris—the name comes from Latin, which means 'glory of the sea'. It has armor-like scales on its body and lives at depths of 6–200 meters in reefs and harbors. Bioluminescent organs are present in the lower jaw near the corner of the mouth and concealed when the mouth is closed. The light is green in color when the fish is young and changes into red when it grows older. The lifespan of this species is almost 10 years. It feeds on small shrimps using its light organs as a tool for hunting. It also uses light to communicate. The light is produced by symbiotic bioluminescent bacteria, Vibrio Fischeri, which is present in the photophores.

2. Krill—Marine Water Arthropod

Krills are small arthropods—found in all oceans. Their name 'krill' comes from a Norwegian word that means "small fry of fish". They feed on phytoplankton and are a primary source of food for other animals. They are also referred to as light shrimp because of their light organs. Antarctic krill (Euphausia Superba) is a species of krill found in Antarctic water. In terms of biomass, Antarctic krills are the most abundant species on the planet. Light organs are present in several parts of the body. The function of these organs is not much known, but they can be used for communicating and camouflaging themselves. The lifespan of krills may vary—higher latitude krills (Euphausia Superba) can live for six years, and some species (Euphausia Pacifica) live for two years.

Krills are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein and taste salty. Their flavor is almost fishy and used as human food, pet food, and livestock food. Penguins, Baleen whales, and Blue whales feed on krills, so they have an important role in the biogeochemical cycle.

3. Midshipman Fish

It belongs to the genus Porichthys. The photophores on its body are prominent and present in four lateral lines. There are nearly 15 species of Midshipman fish and approximately 700 photophores on the body which contain 'Luciferin' and produce fluorescent green light. It produces vocal calls for mating purposes using its 'swim bladder' and receives sound in the saccule, which is a sensory organ. There are two morphs of male midshipman fish: type I and type II. They can be distinguished by their physical features. Type I males have larger body mass and vocal organs, while the reproductive organs of type II males are seven times bigger than type I males.

4. Aequorea Victoria Jellyfish

Aequorea Victoria is a bioluminescent jellyfish, sometimes also known as Crystal jelly. It is found on the west coast of North America and has been said to be the most influential glowing marine organism. It contains a contractile mouth and manubrium with up to 100 radial canals that expand to the bell margin. Many tentacles are present at the bell margin. The tentacles contain nematocysts, which help in catching the prey. It is entirely colorless and transparent. Because it is an inefficient swimmer, therefore, needs direct contact with its target to feed upon.

A crystal jelly (Aequorea Victoria)

A crystal jelly (Aequorea Victoria)

5. Sea Sparkle—A Free-Living Marine Organism

Sea sparkle (Noctiluca Scintillans) is a single-celled, free-living species of dinoflagellate that contains bioluminescence. They are balloon-shaped cells and have colorless cytoplasm. The process of light production takes place in the cytoplasm by a luciferin-luciferase reaction. The glow can be seen by humans when the water is disturbed. They are most abundant in the summer seasons. Sea sparkle is a heterotroph and feeds upon fish eggs, other dinoflagellate, planktons, and bacteria.

6. A Bioluminescent Mushroom

Omphalotus Nidiformis is a species of bioluminescent mushrooms and also called ghost fungus. It is commonly found in Australia and Tasmania. It is poisonous, and consumption may lead to cramps and vomiting. It glows in pale-whitish colour, and fruit bodies can be seen on dead tree barks. The bioluminescent property can be truly seen in dim light, and the gills are the most luminous part of the fungus. The intensity of the glow varies from species to species, and the glow of light fades with age.

Omphalotus Nidiformis showing bioluminescence

Omphalotus Nidiformis showing bioluminescence

7. A Bigfin Reef Squid

Sepioteuthis Iessoniana—also known as 'glitter squid' or 'oval squid', is a species of squid that belongs to the genus Sepioteuthis. It contains large oval-shaped fins which extend throughout the margins of the mantle. Because of these fins, it resembles cuttlefish. The size is approximately 3.8–33 centimeters. It has the largest recorded growth rate among large marine invertebrates and can reach 600 g in four months. It can glow in the dark but doesn't have photophores. Because of the absence of photophores, this squid is not truly bioluminescent. When light touches its body, it turns red and green. It can change its color and pattern of the skin.

A bigfin reef squid from the Komodo National Park

A bigfin reef squid from the Komodo National Park

8. Railroad Worm

A railroad worm is a larva female adult of a beetle that belongs to the genus Frixothrix. It contains several pairs of light organs on the body and can glow in different colors. The pair of light organs on the head can glow in red. The use of bioluminescent organs is not for mating purposes. The male locates their mate because of the female pheromone.

9. Bolitaeninae—Small Octopuses

Bolitaeninae is a subfamily of small, pelagic octopuses—found in almost all the oceans. The taxonomy is not fully recognized. But researchers have discovered the two genera: Bolitaena and Japetella. They are small-sized, gelatinous, and translucent invertebrates that contain laterally compressed eyes. Bolitaena pygmaea—commonly known as Pygmy pelagic octopod, which is very similar to Japetella. In mature females, the most remarkable feature is their ring-shaped photophore, which is used to attract the male. The lady octopus glows with yellow light and gets the attention of her mate. Mating occurs in deep water.

The yellow bioluminescent ring on this female octopus (Bolitaena Pygmaea)

The yellow bioluminescent ring on this female octopus (Bolitaena Pygmaea)

10. Hawaiian Bobtail Squid

Euprymna Scolopes—a Hawaiian bobtail squid is a species of bobtail squid that is native to the central Pacific Ocean, where it exists in the Hawaiian islands and Midway island. The length of the mantle is 30mm, and the hatchling weight is 0.005 g. The light organ is present in the mantle cavity. These squids have a symbiotic relation with bioluminescent bacteria—Aliivibrio Fischeri. These bacteria are present in the light organs and responsible for light emission. They spend most of the time buried in the sand to protect themselves from predators.

11. Pyrosomes

Pyrosomes—commonly known as "sea pickles", are free-floating marine invertebrates and belong to Chordates. They are cone-shaped, cylindrical colonies with a size of up to 60 ft long. The individuals in colonies are known as 'zooids'. A gelatinous tunic joins all the individuals in colonies. The colony is bumpy on the outside, and each bump represents an individual zooid. Pyrosomes glow with bright light, and each zooid contains a pair of light organs close to the out surface of the tunic in which bioluminescent bacteria are present.

Pyrosomes—a colony of zooids at Point Pinos

Pyrosomes—a colony of zooids at Point Pinos



EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 08, 2021:

Nice to see you here, Peggy. Thanks for your kind words.

Stay blessed...

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 07, 2021:

These are amazing creatures! Thanks for showing us photos of them and telling us a bit about each of them.

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 07, 2021:

Thanks for your kind words, Amara. I appreciate your visit, dear sis.

Amara from Pakistan on May 07, 2021:

Wow what a great collection of photos.

Interesting article.. :-)

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 06, 2021:

I appriciate your visit, Brenda. Yes, these are amazing creature. And like you, I want to see them once in a lifetime.


EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 06, 2021:

Thanks for the visit, Misbah. Yes, sea sparkle and glitter squid are the tremendous creation of Allah. I am glad that you liked the article.

Have a blessed day...

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 06, 2021:

I appreciate your visit, Rozlin. I am glad that you liked these incredible creatures.


EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 06, 2021:

Nice to see you here, Bhattuc. Thanks for liking the article.


EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on May 06, 2021:

It's ok, Bill. Chill out and enjoy your vacations.

Blessings and peace...

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 05, 2021:

A beautiful and well researched article, Moon. I loved the photos and video too. Very interesting and informative. I personally like sea sparkle and glitter squid.

Thanks for sharing


Rozlin from UAE on May 05, 2021:

Nice hub dear..a very good collection of glowing organisms under the sea.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 05, 2021:

Loved the photos and information. Some if these fish or life that lives in the sea are beautiful.

I wish I could see them but I don't see that one happening.

Great article

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on May 05, 2021:

Very nice compilation.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 05, 2021:

I'm on vacation.I just wanted you to know I wasn't ignoring you.