By: Maddie G.
About 30 to 40 bioluminescent chemical compounds exist in living organisms such as beetles and bacteria. Of those, there is only thorough knowledge of very few. The mysterious luminescent mechanisms of the “parchment tube worm,” unstudied for more than 50 years, was studied by a team of researchers recently. This marine worm fluoresces a green glow when stimulated by ultraviolet light. Also, it releases puffs of mucus that give off a long-lasting blue glow. This worm spends its life in a self-made sediment tube, and it lives in a range of most of the world’s oceans. The uniqueness of the mucus is its longevity and the fact that it glows blue. When analyzed, its chemical composition differs from that of any other known biological light-producing compound; one or two of the proteins in the mucus are completely unknown. The known proteins don’t match anything associated with light production other than vitamin B2 (riboflavin: creates green fluorescence in bacteria). The riboflavin causes the worm’s body to glow green, but researchers don’t understand how a green fluorescent compound can create blue light. Plants and microbes are the only living organisms that naturally produce riboflavin, so the worm relies on obtaining the vitamin through its diet. The mucus is the first discovered case of bioluminescence that does not depend on the presence of molecular oxygen. (Read more…)