You may have seen the sparkle of fireflies on a summer’s night. The fireflies produce light through a chemical reaction in their glowing abdomens, a process known as bioluminescence. But did you know that seascapes can also glow and glitter thanks to the light producing abilities of many marine organisms? Some fish dangle a lighted lure in front of their mouths to attract prey, while some squid shoot out bioluminescent liquid, instead of ink, to confuse their predators. Worms and tiny crustaceans also use bioluminescence to attract mates.
Humans primarily see bioluminescence triggered by a physical disturbance, such as waves or a moving boat hull, that gets the animal to show their light off, but often animals light up in response to an attack or in order to attract a mate. Bioluminescent organisms live throughout the water column, from the surface to the seafloor, from near the coast to the open ocean. In the deep sea, bioluminescence is extremely common, and because the deep sea is so vast, bioluminescence may be the most common form of communication on the planet!