Bioluminescence

James E. Lloyd and Erin C. Gentry

University of Florida

Light that is produced in a chemical reaction by an organism is called bioluminescence. This "living light" is most commonly produced in tissues or organs within and shines out of the emitter's body, but luminous secretions are produced by some organisms and oozed or squirted out, even smeared on attackers. Chemiluminescence is but one of several forms of light emission collectively known as luminescence, which occurs when atoms of a substance emit photons (packets of light energy) as their electrons return to their stable state after being lifted to a higher and unstable energy level by input energy.

The best-known insect bioluminescence is that of beetles of the family Lampyridae. They are known as fireflies, lightningbugs, blinkies, and many other local and colloquial names around the world.

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