Scientists Create Alien-Looking Bioluminescent Plants Reminiscent of ‘Avatar’ Jungles

Stunning-looking luminescent plants have become popular in science-fiction and fantasy films in recent years, but if the recent achievement of an international team of scientists is any indication, self-sustaining bioluminescent plants are already a reality.

In 2017, MIT researchers announced an important breakthrough in their quest to make plants that glow in the dark a reality, but their Plant Nanobionics only made watercress leaves dimly glow for about 3.5 hours. Late last month, a team of 27 scientists published a groundbreaking study documenting their ability to genetically tweak virtually any type of plant and make it sustainably luminescent throughout its entire life cycle. By inserting DNA obtained from bioluminescent mushrooms into the DNA sequence of plants, they managed to create plants that glow orders of magnitude brighter than previously possible.

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The Glowing Firefly Squids of Toyama Bay

Every year, between March and June, the 14-km shoreline of Japan’s Toyama Bay is lit up in blue. The electrifying light show isn’t man-made; it’s a natural phenomenon, caused by thousands of bioluminescent cephalopods known as ‘Glowing Firefly Squids’. These fascinating creatures normally live 1,200 ft underwater, but are pushed to the surface by waves during the Hotaru Ika (firefly squid) season.

Firefly Squid, or Watasenia Scintillans, are normally about three inches long and covered with photophores. Large photophores are present around their eyes and on the tips of their tentacles, while tiny photophores cover the entire body. These photophores contain light-producing chemicals that are responsible for the squid’s bioluminescence. Fireflies have similar photophores, so the squid are named after them.

glowing-firefly-squid

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