Light Up Your Summer!

As you’re exploring the great outdoors or camping out this summer as part of the Great American Campout, stars and campfires may not be the only objects you see emitting light at night. In the August issue, Ranger Rick magazine highlights bioluminescent wildlife like some jellyfish and insects that have the ability to give off light naturally, making them glow in the dark.

Here are a few native bioluminescent wildlife and where you might spot them:

Fireflies in Your Backyard

Fireflies lighting up a backyard in New York. Photo by s58y via Flickr Creative Commons

Fireflies lighting up a backyard in New York. Photo by s58y via Flickr Creative Commons

Fireflies are one of the most commonly seen bioluminescent wildlife. Found across the eastern United States, these insects, known as lighting bugs, use their light-up tricks to attract mates and meals. The bioluminescent organs in fireflies are found on the underside of the abdomen. In the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, fireflies are known to put on a unique show in the evening where they flash in unison.

Millipedes in California

bioluminescent millipedes

Motyxia bistipita, bioluminescent millipedes found in California. Photo by Paul Marek, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Virginia Tech

Bioluminescent millipedes can be found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. These creatures produce light from their bodies thanks to a special type of protein. Originally scientists knew that the invertebrates glowed to warn predators that they produce a toxic cyanide, but scientist have also recently discovered that the millipedes glow in the dark as a way to cope with their hot, dry environment.

Dinoflagellates Along the Coast

Dinoflagellates glowing along the coast of San Diego. Photo by Kevin Baird via Flickr Creative Commons

Dinoflagellates glowing along the coast of San Diego. Photo by Kevin Baird via Flickr Creative Commons

These small glowing creatures travel in groups and can be found along coasts, like Florida, California and New Jersey. Not all dinoflagellates glow, but those that do often give off a blue or red glow. Some dinoflagellates have been known to create red tides, which are not healthy for the surrounding aquatic life.

Dismalites in Alabama

Dismalities

Dismalities. Photo by Dante Fenolio

Found in the Dismals Canyon in Alabama are a bright blue-green colored larvae commonly referred to as “dismalites”. These creatures are closely related to glowworms found in New Zealand and Australia. Dismalities are actually the larvae of a unique, native, and endemic species of insect (North American Orfelia fultoni). The larvae glow in order to attract food like other flying insects.

Honey Mushroom in Oregon

Honey mushroom in the daylight. Photo by Armand Robichaud via Flickr Creative Commons

Honey mushroom in the daylight. Photo by Armand Robichaud via Flickr Creative Commons

In the Malheur National Forest in Oregon is the world’s largest living organism, a honey mushroom. Covering 2,200 acres, this honey mushroom is a wide spreading fungus that eats trees from the bottom up. Most of the fungus is underground, yet it can be seen glowing because parts of the honey fungus extend under the bark of infested trees.

Learn more about bioluminescent wildlife by picking up a copy of the August 2015 Ranger Rick magazine!

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