Changing Colour

Most bioluminescence in the ocean is emitted at a wavelength of 470-480nm, corresponding with that of blue light (Rees et al. 1998). Whilst wavelength absorption varies throughout the ocean, the wavelengths at the blue end of the spectrum are usually the ones that travel the furthest distance (Rees et al. 1998); therefore they are most beneficial to an organism, especially when living in the deep sea where organisms are not always in a close proximity of one another. Having said this, between all the bioluminescing organisms of the ocean all wavelengths are utilised by at least one organism (Widder 2010) (Fig.7).

Figure 7. Examples of bioluminescent organisms emitting wavelengths across the whole range of the spectrum of visible light (Image from: Widder 2010)

One of the methods employed to alter the colour of the luminescence involves transferring the energy from the excited luciferin to a fluorescent protein (Rees et al. 1998).

For example, in order to emit green bioluminescence the energy would be transferred to a green fluorescent protein (GFP) via an electronic transfer process (Ward & Cormier 1978). This protein then releases the light at its new wavelength, emitting a protein specific colour; in this case green. Wider et al. (1983) showed that some organism have the ability to emit more than one colour.

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