7 Bioluminescent Creatures That Light Up the Ocean


Atolla WyvilleiPhoto: NOAA Ocean Explorer from USA

There are lights that light up a room and creatures that swim in the ocean. Now what — you may be asking yourself — could these two quite distinct concepts possibly have to do with one other? Well, when you put them together you have something called bioluminescence.

Bioluminescence happens when a living organism produces and emits light. It’s estimated that about 90 percent of deep sea life has this capability in some form or other. The light that these creatures generate is given off by tiny organs known as photophores.

There are several theories as to why certain sea creatures have this ability. One theory is that it exists for the purpose of camouflage, allowing the creature to match the overhead light in order to escape becoming prey.

The opposite theory is that bioluminescence serves to attract prey or a member of the opposite sex. Communication is another reason given. Yet, regardless of the explanation, we just think the different colored lights these creatures give off are truly amazing!

lantern fishPhoto: NOAA’s Ocean Explorer

7. Lanternfish

Lanternfish emit light through their undersides, heads and tails, and can be found in oceans all around the world at depths of 1,200 to 3,000 feet. They use their lights for mating and also for attracting small fish upon which they feast. Check out this one’s baby blue eye!


atolla jellyfishPhoto: NOAA National Ocean Service

6. Atolla Jellyfish

Talk about self-protection! Whenever the Atolla Jellyfish (Atolla wyvillei) feels threatened, it uses its photophores to create a bluish ‘burglar alarm’ around its outer edges. This serves to scare away predators. It also attracts potential food. We don’t know about you, but if we were deep-sea jellyfish predators, we’d definitely leave this sucker alone!