Bioluminescent Bugs: Predatory Glow Worms Discovered in Rainforest

Strange little green lights in the jungle piqued the curiosity of nature photographer Jeff Cremer when he spotted them while working at a lodge in Peru. Moving in for a closer look, Cremer found that the glowstick-like illumination was actually created by several dozen half-inch worms, thought to be the larvae of an unknown species of click beetle. Cremer brought the worms to the attention of entomologists working with Rain Forest Expeditions.The team discovered that the strange little horned glow worms likely use their unusual ability to lure in prey. “The glowing worms may use their phosphorescent ability to lure the bus into their mouths, much like insects are drawn to a lamp; when the insect is near they burst from the earth similar to the humongous man-eating worms in ‘Tremors,’ the popular 1990 movie, trapping the insects in their wide jaws!” More than 200 of the 10,000 species of click beetles that have been discovered thus far are bioluminescent. It’s not clear exactly how these particular ones produce light, but similar insects use a class of molecules called luciferins to give off a glow. When they reach adult stage, click beetles use a fast popping or ‘clicking’ motion to escape predators.

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