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Fun Facts

  • Bioluminescence is the only source of light in the largest habitable space on Earth, the perpetually dark deep sea.
  • The world’s largest bioluminescent organism is a fungus found in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, Armillaria ostoyae. Its cordlike underground growth structures cover nearly 2,200 acres.
  • In Brazil, bioluminescent beetle larvae burrow into huge termite mounds and use their lights to attract flying insects. Some say the mounds look like Christmas trees.



  • There are more than 2,000 firefly species worldwide.
  • Several species of fireflies live in Colorado, but they do not glow because they do not have the organ required to produce light. A few outliers have entered the state, so firefly flashes are occasionally seen in open spaces in Colorado.
  • Fireflies are beetles. The average lifespan of most species is two weeks to two months.
  • The females of some species mimic other species’ flashes to lure males. When the male approaches, the imposter female eats him for dinner.



  • Glowworm is a common word for the luminescent larvae of different species of insects.
  • Arachnocampa luminosa larvae live on the roof of caves and drop sticky threads from their bioluminescent tails to ensnare prey that are attracted to the light, such as mosquitoes, midges, fruit flies, and gnats.



  • Dinoflagellates are single-celled organisms that live in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Some species that live in the ocean flash on contact, like the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense.
  • Dinoflagellates date back 1.2 billion years, making them far more ancient than dinosaurs.
  • A tablespoon of water from Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico can contain as many as 2,000 cells of the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, the “whirling fire creature of the Bahamas.”




  • The golden ponyfish glows along its belly, camouflaging against the down-welling light from above to avoid being seen by predators lurking below. At times, a male will turn off his belly-lights and flash his sidelights to attract a mate.
  • The source of a ponyfish’s light is a ring of tissue around its throat packed with bioluminescent bacteria.


2001 Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205

Open Everyday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

February 23–June 10



Creatures of Light reveals some of the most magical, wondrous, and truly extraordinary creatures and phenomena found in the natural world. Exhibition is included with Museum admission.


Fun Facts

The source of a ponyfish’s light is a ring of tissue around its throat packed with bioluminescent bacteria.

Fun Facts

 Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada; and The Field Museum, Chicago.

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