Luminescence

Another specialized metabolic job to which certain body chemicals are put is bio-luminescence (Harvey 1957). Quite a number of insects, primarily beetles (glowworms, fireflies, headlight beetles, railroad worms) and millipedes, have evolved light-producing organs (McElroy et al. 1974). The mechanism of light production is complex (Case and Strause 1978) but basically involves the oxidation of luciferin in the presence of the enzyme luciferase. Luciferin is first activated by ATP in the presence of magnesium, then oxidized to an excited form (adenyl-oxy-luciferin) that decays to a lower energy form with the liberation of light. The reaction is cool and very efficient, some 98 percent of the energy involved being released as light.

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