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What is bioflourescence?

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Beautiful biofluorescence: Researchers discovered a rich diversity of fluorescent patterns and colors in marine fishes, as exemplified here. A). swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum); B). ray (Urobatis jamaicensis); C). sole (Soleichthys heterorhinos); D). flathead (Cociella hutchinsi); E). lizardfish (Saurida gracilis); F). frogfish (Antennarius maculatus); G). stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa); H). false moray eel (Kaupichthys brachychirus); I). Chlopsidae (Kaupichthys nuchalis); J). pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus); K). sand stargazer (Gillellus uranidea); L). goby (Eviota sp.); M). Gobiidae (Eviota atriventris); N). surgeonfish (Acanthurus coeruleus, larval); O). threadfin bream (Scolopsis bilineata). Photo credit: PLOS ONE ©
Beautiful biofluorescence: Researchers discovered a rich diversity of fluorescent patterns and colors in marine fishes, as exemplified here. A). swell shark (Cephaloscyllium ventriosum); B). ray (Urobatis jamaicensis); C). sole (Soleichthys heterorhinos); D). flathead (Cociella hutchinsi); E). lizardfish (Saurida gracilis); F). frogfish (Antennarius maculatus); G). stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa); H). false moray eel (Kaupichthys brachychirus); I). Chlopsidae (Kaupichthys nuchalis); J). pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus); K). sand stargazer (Gillellus uranidea); L). goby (Eviota sp.); M). Gobiidae (Eviota atriventris); N). surgeonfish (Acanthurus coeruleus, larval); O). threadfin bream (Scolopsis bilineata). Photo credit: PLOS ONE ©

In late September, marine biologist David Gruber revealed the world’s first recording of a reptile displaying bioflourescent behavior. The hawksbill sea turtle that Gruber observed in the waters around the Solomon Islands (off the coast of Australia) displayed green and red colors.

What does “bioflourescence” mean?

Bioflourescence is the ability to absorb blue light from the sun, then to process it and re-emit it as a specific color. Green, red and orange are the most common colors emitted. For years, scientists have observed bioflourescence in a wide variety of animals such as sharks, rays, shrimp, fish and copepods (small crustaceans).

Gruber summed up the difference simply by defining bioflourescence this way: “Turn off the light source, and there’s no fluorescence.” If an animal can display colored light without living near sunlight, it is bioluminescent, not biofluorescent.

Most bioluminescent animals live at depths that visible sunlight never reaches and only the blue spectrum of light exists while bioflourescent animals live in regions where they can absorb sunlight, which they later use.

Animals display bioflourescent  behaviors for a variety of reasons including communication, defense and predation.

 

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