The Fantastic Fireflies

The Nature has endowed us with innumerable miracles in and around us. One of the most awe-inspiring wonders is the presence of millions of life forms on our planet. Not only that, but each one is equipped with some unique and sublime abilities for a specific or various purposes. This complexity with perfection unmistakably executed by the Nature can rival any form of engineering invented by humans.

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Fireflies, a.k.a. lightning bugs, or glowworm in larva form, possess quite an awesome talent to produce light. These guys can do so by the process called bioluminescence. The light appears as a bright glow from their lower abdomen. The enzyme Luciferase in the abdomen reacts with Luciferin to generate such light. Oxygen, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and magnesium ions play the supporting cast.

The light thus produced is “cold light”, because all the energy comes out only as light unlike artificial lights where a part of energy is emitted as heat. Now that’s ‘cool’!

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It’s not only their production of light that is amazing, but their way of using it proves them even smarter. This light plays a pivotal role in their love courtship. When a male firefly wants to find a mate, it starts flying in the dark and flashes its light as some sort of signal. Yes, sounds like flirting! A female firefly on the surface recognizes this signal and sends a response in form of her own flashes. Then the male lands and goes to the female firefly. This is how they meet. So romantic! And then if they find each other suitable, love blossoms. Quite a love story, isn’t it?

This is not the light’s only function though. It is also used to ward off predators. A specific pattern of such light even serves as a communication tool where all the fireflies of the group synchronize their light emission for a particular purpose. Such an enviable conference call facility, right?

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Many, but not all, predators avoid eating fireflies because their blood contains a bitter chemical which may prove fatal. However, on the other hand, some fireflies eat other fireflies. Now this thing doesn’t surprise me much, because such a behavior can easily be related to the human beings as well. Metaphorically, at least. Don’t you agree?

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