Glow in the dark

With decreasing day length, we often find ourselves stumbling around in the dark in the early morning hours, or when we return from work at night. It is during these times that you can often see little objects on the ground that glow in the dark. There are a number of plants, and some insects such as the firefly, that exhibit bioluminescent (glowing in the dark.)

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Bioluminescence means” light created by living things.” This light is different from other sources of light because no heat is generated, compared to fire, light bulbs, flames, etc. Bioluminescence occurs when enzymes combine with oxygen to produce light. Some plants that glow in the dark include molds, bacteria, slimes, yeasts, and fungi. There are nearly 100,000 species of mushrooms found throughout the world with 71 known species that exhibit bioluminescence. In North America, there are five species of mushrooms that glow in the dark. One of the most common mushrooms to exhibit this trait is Armillaria mellea, or the Honey mushroom. Only the mycelium under the mushroom cap glows in Armellaria. In some mushrooms, most of the plant glows, like the Jack-o-lantern mushroom. The philosopher, Aristotle, first described luminous wood in 382 B.C. Over the years, many scientists studied bioluminescence in plants and animals. A lingering question that remains is, “why it would be advantageous for fungi to glow in the dark?” Some speculate that it attracts insects to them, which helps dispersal of their spores. Whatever the reason, these tiny little night lights make an interesting backdrop to the landscape this time of year.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Note for 10/10/20