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GLOSSARY
Adaptation
Gradual change in a species' structure, form, or habits that allow it to survive and reproduce in its particular environment.
ATP
Short for adenosine triphosphate. ATP is an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things. It captures chemical energy obtained from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes. ATP is a component needed for bioluminescence in fireflies.
Biochemical
Chemical reactions in living organisms.
Bioluminescence
Bioluminescence, a form of chemiluminescence, is light that comes from living organisms. Bio means "living organism" and luminescence means "emission of light."
Organisms that can produce light are called bioluminescent.
Not to be confused with fluorescence or phosphorescence.
BL
Short for bioluminescence.
Chemical reaction
Any chemical process in which different kinds of matter combine to form substances that may not resemble any of the original ingredients.
For example: oxygen (a gaseous element) and hydrogen (a gaseous element) combine to form water (a liquid compound).
Chemiluminescence
Light produced by a chemical reaction and not by heat.
Cool light
Light that results from a chemical reaction in which the conversion of chemical energy to radiant energy is direct and almost 100 percent efficient. Very little heat is given off in the process.
Dinoflagellates
Small, single-celled organisms that live in the sea. Dinoflagellates are an important component of phytoplankton and a source of bioluminescence at the surface of the ocean.
See What is a Dinoflagellate and Dinoflagellate Bioluminescence.
View photographs of bioluminescent phenomena at Bio Bay.
Enzyme
A substance that acts as a catalyst in living organisms. It can control the rate of a chemical reaction. The enzyme itself is not changed by the chemical reaction.
Luciferase is an enzyme.
Fluorescence
Luminescence caused by the absorption and almost immediate release of radiant energy. When radiant energy, such as ultraviolet light, shines on a fluorescent object, the electrons within the object are kicked into an excited state. This state, however, is very unstable and the absorbed energy is quickly released as light. Fluorescence stops when the source of radiant energy is removed.
Compare with phosphorescence.
See examples of mineral fluorescence.
Luciferase
An enzyme that sets off the chemical reaction in a bioluminescent animal.
See also Luciferin.
For more detail, see Bioluminescence: Chemical Reaction!
Luciferin
Any of several organic compounds that, in the presence of the enzyme, luciferase, react with oxygen to produce bioluminescent light. Luciferins vary in chemical structure from organism to organism. The luciferin in fireflies, for example, is different from the luciferin in bioluminscent squid. Each type of luciferin is catlyzed by a specific luciferase
See also Luciferase.
For more detail, see Bioluminescence: Chemical Reaction!
Oxygen
A colorless, tasteless, odorless, gaseous element. It makes up 21% of the air we breathe and is found in water, in most rocks and minerals, and in many organic compounds. It is an important component of bioluminescence.
Phosphorescence
Luminescence caused by the absorption and slow release of radiant energy. Phosphorescence, unlike fluorescence, is fairly stable and may continue for some time after the source of radiant energy is removed.
Photophores
Light-emitting organs found in many fish, squid and shrimp. Photophores are used to produce and store light. They vary in size and form, but often have lenses, reflecting layers and filters for directing light.
Substrate
A substance acted upon by an enzyme.
Luciferin is a molecular substrate that is acted upon by the enzyme, luciferase.
Terrestrial
Living on or in or growing from the land, as distinct from the water.

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