Organism of the month July08

Ooh, it’s got to be the Glow Worm.

female glow-worm beetle - copyright Jason P Ball

Lampyris noctiluca must be one of the tiny few terrestrial animals that can make light. It makes light! Don’t you wish you could do that?! By metabolising Luciferin (with the enzyme Luciferase, obviously) energy is released in the form of light, from the tail end of this little beetle. Yes, it’s a beetle.

I’ve posted a video clip on YouTube so you get an idea of the shape of the animal, but to be frank the video does not do justice to the power of this living lamp. It’s rather like a 3-LED torch, but produced by this tiny animal. Somebody else on YouTube has already managed to capture the lights on video better than me (so I’ll put that on my playlist) but I was nervous of putting the beetle off its mission, causing it to waste energy shutting down the light in response to interference.

Watch my videoclip of a glow-worm beetle on youtube. (Don’t be surprised to see shocking things and shockingly boring things on YouTube.) The video shows an adult wingless female beetle glowing to attract a winged male, but apparently even the eggs and the larva can glow.

copyright © 2008 Jason P Ball

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