How fish evolved an abyssal glow

+ See all authors and affiliations

Science  22 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6297, pp. 360
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6297.360-a

Bioluminescence, as seen in this moray eel, has evolved many times.


The darkness of the deep sea presents a particular challenge for fish wanting to mate or eat. Rising to this selective challenge, fish inhabiting these deep waters have evolved—very many times, it turns out—an extraordinary array of luminescent appendages. Davis et al. amassed sequence data from almost 300 fish genera (representing about 1500 bioluminescent species) to determine the evolutionary origins, age, and patterns of diversity of this phenomenon. Bioluminescence in fish is due to either intrinsic biochemistry or symbiotic relationships with luminescent bacteria. Starting in the Early Cretaceous, intrinsic bioluminescence evolved eight times, and relationships with glowing bacterial symbionts have evolved on at least 17 occasions. This work substantially adds to the tally of independent evolutionary occurrences of bioluminescence.

PLOS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0155154 (2016).

Navigate This Article