Invertebrates

Bioluminescence is secreted by invertebrates mainly to distract predators long enough for them to escape (Herring 2007). It is created by the oxidation of the substrate luciferin by the catalytic enzyme luciferase in the photophores, and the mixing of the two is controlled by the organism (Byatt et al. 2001). The majority of organisms that live at this depth produce their own source of light, and some examples are the following.

Some species of copepod flash when they are attacked, but most release packets of bioluminescence into the water which burst and distract the predator (Herring 2001). Sometimes these burst are delayed, further confusing the predator.

The decapods shrimp Oplophorus graciliorostris contains glands at the base of its antennae and legs, which, when roused, enables it to secrete a bright luminescent cloud into the water (Shimomura et al. 1978).

Species of the genus Heteroteuthis are currently the only cephalopods which release bioluminescence with their ink (Herring 1977; Bush and Robison 2007) creating a diversion to aid its escape from predators.

Figure 3. The tentacles of this Colobonema are different lengths, indicating it is able to grow back the tentacles that it sheds (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

The jellyfish Periphylla will ripple with a wave of light running down its bell shaped body to the tips of its tentacles if touched (second image from the left in the header). The Colobonema jellyfish flashes its whole body (Figure 3) and even sheds tentacles which are still pulsing with light (Byatt et al. 2001).

Figure 4. The cnidarian Atolla showing its display of bioluminescence and how it looks under normal light (Colour in the Deep sea)

The Atolla jellyfish gives off blue bioluminescence (Figure 4) which spirals around its body giving a Catherine-wheel effect (Byatt et al. 2001) which is demonstrated in this short video click here.

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