Bioluminescence in the Ocean: Origins of Biological, Chemical, and Ecological Diversity

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Science  07 May 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5979, pp. 704-708
DOI: 10.1126/science.1174269

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From bacteria to fish, a remarkable variety of marine life depends on bioluminescence (the chemical generation of light) for finding food, attracting mates, and evading predators. Disparate biochemical systems and diverse phylogenetic distribution patterns of light-emitting organisms highlight the ecological benefits of bioluminescence, with biochemical and genetic analyses providing new insights into the mechanisms of its evolution. The origins and functions of some bioluminescent systems, however, remain obscure. Here, I review recent advances in understanding bioluminescence in the ocean and highlight future research efforts that will unite molecular details with ecological and evolutionary relationships.

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