8 of our favourite glow-in-the-dark creatures

Bioluminescence occurs when an organism emits light because of chemical reactions in its body, with most bioluminescent creatures found in the ocean. However, on land you’ll find fireflies, glowworms and even glowing fungi.

In March 2018 photographer Eric Nathan captured this incredible time-lapse footage of bioluminescent phytoplankton (noctiluca scintillans) lighting up the ocean at the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve near Cape Town.

Below are some scintillating images of other glowing creatures from around the world.

1. Phytoplankton – Kogelberg, South Africa

Certain types of plankton called dinoflagellates produce luciferin (the same light-emitting chemical found in organisms that generate bioluminescence). Dinoflagellates can be found in various spots across the globe including Maldives, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, USA, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.


2. Fireflies, Japan


View this post on Instagram


ホタル、はじめました。2016 #ホタル #蛍 #ヒメボタル #ヒメホタル #姫蛍

A post shared by Yu Hashimoto (@365march) on

Japanese photographer Yu Hashimoto captured this enchanting image of fireflies that can be found in Japan in the summer, usually between May and June. There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies (although not all of them glow) and these beetles, also known as lightning bugs, can be found in South Africa too – Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are one of the local places where you’ll be able to spot these creatures. According to the firefly conservation and research site firefly.org, ‘The most diversity in species is found in tropical Asia as well as Central and South America’.

3. Glowworms –Waitomo Caves, New Zealand


View this post on Instagram


Пещеры Вайтомо, Новая Зеландия. Пещеры Вайтомо — это порядка 150 ответвлений и известняковых гротов, во многие из которых можно попасть только на лодке. Как полагают учёные, им около двух миллионов лет. Самая известная и популярная среди туристов пещера — Грот светлячков, чьи своды часто сравнивают со звёздным небом. Всё благодаря огромному количеству светлячков Arachnocampa Luminosa, которых можно встретить только в Новой Зеландии. #пещерывайтомо #пещерасветлячков #вайтомо #waitomo #waitomocaves

A post shared by Путешествия, отдых, релакс (@traveller.pro) on

The tourist attraction of Waitomo Glowworm Caves on New Zealand’s North Island is known for its population of Arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm species exclusive to this island nation.

4. Bioluminescent shrimp – Seto Inland Sea, Okayama Japan

These stones draped in bioluminescent shrimp are known as the ‘weeping stones’ of Japan.

5. Soft coral – California, USA

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by genevieve beecham (@gvbeecham) on

The bioluminescent soft coral was on display at the California Academy of Sciences and can be found in the ocean along the Californian coastline.


6. Jellyfish, oceans worldwide


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by @scienceshorts on


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ocean Insider (@oceaninsider) on

Jellyfish come in many shapes and sizes, and bioluminesce is well represented among these creatures, particularly in comb jellyfish.


7. Bitter oysters – Georgia, USA


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by A Humble Mycologist (@mycelialme) on

A cluster of bitter oysters (Panellus Stipticus), a mushroom-like fungi, showing off its light. The common species can be found in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.


8. Tussock moth, USA


View this post on Instagram


Tussock moth fluorescing under black light and normal #tussockmothcaterpillar #fluorescentinsects

A post shared by moppabird (@moppabird) on

Under fluorescent backlighting the Tussock moth boasts a vibrant colour.


Featured image: traveller.proInstagram

You may also like

yoast-primary - 1012442
tcat - Inspiration
tcat_slug - inspiration
tcat2 - Inspiration
tcat2_slug - inspiration
tcat_final -
Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 1012442 [name] => Inspiration [slug] => inspiration [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 1012708 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 163 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 1012442 [category_count] => 163 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Inspiration [category_nicename] => inspiration [category_parent] => 0 ) )