bp's science: why do fireflies glow? (v.1)

Last night after having a fun dinner with friends (thanks guys!), we drove home with the windows down. It's been pleasant weather here lately, and we are enjoying it. As we drove home we passed a wooded area with lots of fireflies. "Why do fireflies glow?" I asked. We weren't sure. So, the question has become a bp's science post.

Fireflies glow to attract a mate, bait prey, and give warning. While attracting a mate is the key reason why fireflies glow, scientists have found that some firefly species use the glow mechanism to fool other fireflies into thinking they want to mate when in reality, they want to eat. Firefly larvae also use the glow to tell predators to stay away.

How they glow
is another story and a bit more complex than the why. In a nutshell: the reaction involves the chemical luciferin, the enzyme luciferase, and oxygen. Luciferin attaches to luciferase, and when oxygen reacts with that compound, the firefly glows.

So there you have it. For more info go here and here and here.


jo said...

So interesting. I never knew why books and movies spoke so lovingly about these beetles until I lived in the Midwest.

Chap said...

I wonder if they prefer humid climes?