Bioluminescent Animals Photo Gallery

Bioluminescence is one of the more captivating adaptations that have evolved in marine animals. It's the ability of organisms to create and emit light. Dive underwater and you may witness lightshows of red, green, and blue. Chemical reactions release energy that produces the light. Many species use it to communicate; some use it to lure their next meal; and others emit light to ward off predators. According to NOAA, scientists estimate that bioluminescence exists in 90 percent of the animals living in the open ocean, in waters below 500 m (1,640 ft). It's a trait that has evolved in a variety of organisms—a small fraction of which are in this slideshow.

Bioluminescence has inspired scientists and artists alike. Watch a video of researchers sharing stories of their encounters with bioluminescent animal, learn about the luminous art of Shih Chieh Huang, and find out more about bioluminescence.

Photograph of the underside of a gelatinous octopus with a bright yellow bioluminescent ring around her mouth.
A photo of a lanternfish with its nasal light organ illuminated. A photo of a squid using bioluminescence to hide in the deep sea. A photograph of a bright blue-speckeled dinoflagellate bioluminescing at night. Atolla Jellyfish from the Waters of JapanThe long barbel on the chin of this dragonfish has a glowing tip that may attract prey.This fish is using counterillumination to disappear. At left it stands out against the light above it. At right, with bioluminescent structures lit, it blends in.Photograph of a transparent polka-dotted squid in the dark ocean.The midwater scyphomedusa Atolla tenella, as seen under a microscope. This colony of <em>Rosacea</em> may look like a single jellyfish, but it is actually a large group of smaller siphonophores clustered and living together.The fluorescent shortnose greeneye fish. This jewel squid (Histioteuthis bonnellii) lives above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.A fringe of tentacles surrounds the bell of this jellyfish (Halicreas minimum).