Fireflies or Lightning Bugs belong to the insect family Lampyridae and to the order Coleoptera i.e. winged beetles. Most insects belonging to the firefly family use bioluminescence for attracting and communicating with other members of their species. Others use pheromones (it is a kind of insect perfume) for communication. Fireflies grow upto 2.5cm and have a lifespan of 2 months. About 2000 species of fireflies are found in the world. Fireflies like moist and humid weather. They are found in warm environments and also in temperate regions. Special light organs situated below the abdomen produce light. Fireflies are divided into following subfamilies:
1. Photurinae – These are located in North America.
2. Luciolinae – These are found in Europe, Australia, Eurasia and East Asia.
3. Cyphonocerinae – These are located in Eurasia and North America.
4. Lampyrinae – These are found in tropical and northern temperate regions.
5. Otetrinae – These are primarily located in North America and Eurasia.
Fig: A firefly
More interesting facts about fireflies are mentioned below:
1. Fireflies produce light for communicating with each other –
Fireflies produce light for attracting mates, for defending their habitats and for warning predators away. In some species of fireflies, only one sex produces light. However, in most species, both the sexes produce light.
2. Fireflies emit “cold light” –
The lights emitted by the fireflies are the most efficient in the world because the entire energy is given off as light. The light generates no heat and therefore it is referred to as “cold light”. Two chemicals viz. luciferin and luciferase are found in the tail of a firefly. Luciferin resists heat and can glow under suitable conditions. Luciferase is the enzyme that is responsible for triggering the light emission. ATP is converted to energy and is responsible for initiating the glow.
Fig: A firefly emitting light
3.Firefly eggs can glow –
In some species of fireflies, the eggs and the larvae produce light. The eggs produce flashes of light when they react to stimulus like vibrations or soft tapping.
Fig: Firefly eggs glowing in the dark
4. Fireflies are medically important –
Firefly cells contain the chemical ATP that is responsible for initiating the production of light. ATP is found in all animal cells and is constant in normal conditions. The quantity of ATP becomes abnormal in ailing cells. The changes in the cells can be detected by injecting the chemicals obtained from fireflies into the ailing cells. This is very useful for studying several diseases like muscular dystrophy, cancer, etc.
5. Fireflies taste awful –
Fireflies exhibit a phenomenon called “reflex bleeding”. This is the process by which the fireflies exude drops of blood whenever they are attacked by predators. The blood is made up of chemicals that are toxic to many animals and also taste bitter. Therefore many animals do not eat fireflies.
He has done his graduation with Mathematics Honors from Calcutta University in 2008.He has completed the final semester of MCA in Feb'2013 and developed an eLearning website in ASP.NET with C# as the major project of the MCA curriculum.He has worked as a Project Trainee in NIVT, Kolkata from Aug'2012 to Jan'2013.read more
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