15 February 2015

Siberian luminous earthworms

They contain a novel form of luciferin:
Intriguingly, the luminous system of Siberian taiga earthworms is different from that of similar types of species, which means that not only have scientists found one more luminous protein, but they have made a step towards
decrypting the whole new luminous system.

Crucially it is revealed that 'the protein is simple in chemical synthesis, exceptionally stable and not toxic, which means it can be widely used in applied bioluminescence'.
Earthworms don't have eyes.  Do they have photosensitive cells somewhere on their bodies?   That would seem to be a prerequisite for developing this luciferin, because otherwise the luminescence would only be of benefit to voles and other predators.  I remember reading somewhere recently about reptiles or amphibians with photoreceptors on their tails which allow them to detect whether they are fully hidden within their burrows.


  1. Yep, they have photosensitive cells spread around their skin.

    1. Very interesting. And just today I ran across a National Geographic article delineating a dozen different general purposes for which living creatures use bioluminescence:


  2. I wonder why certain fungi are bioluminescent? What is the selective pressure for it?

    1. I Googled that for you and found this:

      Scientists do know that bioluminescence provides some antioxidant protection, and that the light attracts insects which may aid in spore dispersal. "We have evidence that in some species, insects are attracted to luminescent mushrooms more than they are to non-luminescent mushrooms of the same size and shape," explains Desjardin, " but whether glowing makes any significant difference to the mushroom species in spore dispersal is unknown."



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