I WANT ONE.
A team of researchers have released the first report identifying more than 180 species that glow in all kinds of colors and patterns. The research shows that biofluorescence, where organisms absorb, transform, and emit light as a different color, is common among fish species, indicating its potential use for communication and mating. The report will help in the discovery of new fluorescent proteins that could be used in biomedical research.
“We’ve long known about biofluorescence underwater in organisms like corals, jellyfish, and even in land animals like butterflies and parrots, but fish biofluorescence has been reported in only a few research publications… This paper is the first to look at the wide distribution of biofluorescence across fishes, and it opens up a number of new research areas,” said John Sparks, a curator in the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology.
One thing I really like about this article is that it pointed something out to me that I never really thought about before: humans live in a “full color” environment (although we did recently learn in class that our visible light spectrum is relatively small.) Meanwhile, fishes live in a world that is predominantly blue because, water quickly absorbs most of the visible light spectrum. The research team has discovered that many fishes absorb the remaining blue light and re-emit it in neon greens, reds, and oranges.
I remember last year learning about glofish (find the website here) fish that scientists added a fluorescent gene to so that they would glow, hoping it would help scientists to quickly and easily determine when a waterway is contaminated. Fluorescent fish have been relied upon by scientists worldwide to better understand important questions in genetics, molecular biology, and vertebrate development.
However, these fish are glowing all on their own- hence the term biofluorescence- no genetic engineering required! That’s kind of really awesome, no lie.
And now I really want a glowing fish. Do you think I could get my dog to glow…?