Researchers Discover Salamanders in the Smoky Mountains Glow
Scientists have discovered biofluorescent amphibians in the Smoky Mountains. Let's take a look at what makes these creatures glow.
Creatures that Glow
While you may be familiar with bioluminescence, did you know there are creatures that are biofluorescent? Bioluminescence is light emitted from a living organism as the result of a chemical reaction within its body. This is what happens when a lightning bug, or firefly, glows - there is a chemical reaction that emits light from the insect's abdomen. It is not an uncommon occurrence in nature. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most creatures, "from bacteria to sharks, include some bioluminescent members."
Bioluminescence vs Biofluorescence: What's the Difference?
Biofluorescence, on the other hand, is not a chemical reaction. In fact, biofluorescence involves the absorption of high-wavelength light like ultraviolet or blue light that is then emitted from the creature at a lower wavelength. According to HunterLab, the light emitted - typically green, red, or orange - is completely different from the color of the light that is absorbed. They say a number of marine animals use this phenomenon "for communication, camouflage, or mating purposes."
Glowing Salamanders in the Smoky Mountains
It may be the latter that scientists believe play a role in the biofluorescence of salamanders found in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountains are home to at least 31 different salamander species ranging in size from a single inch to as large as 29 inches in lenth. According to SmokiesInformation.org, scientists believe that the differences in biofluorescence in certain species, like the southern gray-cheeked salamanders, may play "a role in mate selection." Learn more about this natural phenomenon, here.
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