Bioluminescence, or the ability to emit light biologically, has evolved multiple times across various taxa. As fascinating as the phenomenon is, various studies have been undertaken to harness this phenomenon for human use. However, the origins, distribution and ecology of bioluminescence still remain obscure. The capability to produce biological light is found in various species, ranging from tiny bacteria to huge fishes like lantern sharks. Many organisms that do not possess this ability partake in symbiotic relationships, resulting in a variety of anatomical and behavioral modifications. The ecological interactions resulting from bioluminescence are even more interesting and diverse, but many of them are still shrouded in mystery because of a lack of in-situ study. As agreed by many, bioluminescence conferred certain evolutionary advantages which still remain unclear. In spite of the lack of understanding, many spectacular ecological interactions like offence, defense, courtship or intra-specific synchrony have been observed, studied and documented, and their significance understood. As far as humans are concerned, efforts are being made to channel this capability to the best of our use, though some of these are still in their infancy. This chapter explores the origins, ecology and future prospects of bioluminescence in detail.
Part of the book: Bioluminescence