Sunday, May 18, 2014

Did You Know...How do fireflies glow?

As a child I've always thought fireflies were magical creatures. And that is due to the lower part of their abdomen. The magic has a name: bioluminescence, the light produced by a small cells called photocytes, reflected off several layers of reflective cells, with a consequent emission of a greenish-yellow glow.
Inside this light producing cells within the firefly is an organelle called a peroxizome. The chemical part within it is what creates the light. Magnesium and ATP (so it's called energy in biology) combine with an enzyme known as luciferase and the protein luciferin. This combination creates a very excited molecule. When oxygen is introduced into the mix, the molecule goes from excitement back to a steady state. This transaction releases energy in the form of a photon of light.
The mechanism that starts this light show is not very well known. The main theory revolves around the firefly’s ability to control oxygen within photocytes. The organelle that controls ATP production, called Mitochondria,  require large amounts of oxygen. When the firefly decides to light up the sky, it signals “trigger cells” to produce large amounts of nitric oxide. When the mitochondria inside the photocytes become soaked with nitric oxide, it results in extra oxygen available within the cell. It seems this extra oxygen availability starts the chain reaction, producing light.
Researchers have also found that white light can reverse the nitric oxide effects on a key respiratory enzyme found in mitochondria. Because of this, it is thought that light itself could be the "off" button.
And the reason why fireflies decide to light up the world. Not an easiest answer: mating purposes ! A good flashlight is a fantastic method to attract all the females!
Well, I still believe there is magic within their little wings...and I will always believe in these thoughts of mine....

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