Did you know that many animals glow in the dark? From water jellies to emperor scorpions, many aquatic and non-aquatic animals give off light, and the list continues to grow as scientists discover more and more luminescent animals.

The Vancouver Aquarium is celebrating this unique phenomenon during Luminescence, a celebration of aquatic light, until January 22, 2013.

Here are just a few of the sea creatures who can shed light on bioluminescence and flourescence, processes through which they emit light:

Water Jellies
Water jellies are bioluminescent, which means they have the ability to emit light through a chemical reaction within themselves. Two proteins, aequorin and green fluorescent protein (GFP), found in water jellies are responsible for their bioluminescence.

As with many luminescent animals, we do not know why water jellies light up. We know that they do not light up to find a mate or escape a predator but so far, scientists haven’t determined how self-created light helps these animals.

Bubble-tip anemones become a brilliant colour of green under black-UV light.


Anemones are fluorescent, which means they have the ability to obtain light from an external source and re-emit it, almost immediately. This is why you will never observe a sea anemone or any other fluorescent aquatic animal fluoresce in complete darkness.

Scientists have found that the protein that helps anemones light up also acts as a natural sunscreen. This protein allows sea anemones to protect their symbiotic algae, zooxanthallae, living in their tissues from harmful UV rays. The fluorescence we see may be a by-product of their natural sunscreen.

This Florida bark scorpion is fluorescent, which means it reflects light and glows in the dark.

Although scorpions aren’t aquatic animals, the Aquarium is home to some of these scurrying creatures. Most people don’t know that scorpions are fluorescent and glow green under UV light. If you ever need to steer clear of a scorpion, a UV light would come in handy as it will allow you to see their exact location.

Just like water jellies and anemones, scientists are trying to understand why scorpions fluoresce. Scorpions may fluoresce as a way to lure prey, or perhaps to deter their own predators. Their ability to glow may be a remnant trait from an extinct ancestor or a by-product of some other biological process.

In addition to our glowing array of sea creatures, join us for these additional seasonal attractions:

  • Journey to a place that very few people have ever visited at our daily Glowing in the Deep show. Dive below the ocean’s surface with us and experience firsthand how light is created in one of the most bizarre and mysterious places on Earth – the deep sea. Join us for Eel-lectric Lights where you can experience “eel energy” in action at one of our presentations and witness a dazzling display of light.
  • From now through Dec. 24, see Scuba Claus, who visits the Aquarium every year to swim merrily amongst the halibut, rockfish, sturgeon and sea stars. Scuba Santa Claus shows are weekends starting Nov. 24 and then run daily from Dec. 21 to Dec. 24.
  • Be sure to hop on board The Polar Express 4-D Experience – a 20 minute cinematic adventure complete with the rumble of the train, magical falling snow and the heavenly scent of hot chocolate on this mystical ride to the North Pole.
  • Head on over to Craft Corner and make your very own clothespin anglerfish or anglerfish hat! Then join us for Family Programs in our Underwater Arctic Gallery where you’ll learn about people or aquatic creatures that live in darkness.

Join us at the Vancouver Aquarium for Luminescence until January 22, 2013, and see how these and other animals glow in the dark. Visit the website for daily show information.

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