April 6, 2009

Scientists study marine fireworms

U.S. scientists say they've uncovered clues about the bioluminescent process used by marine fireworms that produce a green glow often seen in tropical seas.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers at the University of California-San Diego led by Dimitri Deheyn and Michael Latz said the fireworms use bioluminescence to attract suitors in an undersea mating ritual and might also use the light as a defensive measure.

This is another step toward understanding the biology of the bioluminescence in fireworms, and it also brings us closer to isolating the protein that produces the light, said Deheyn, a scientist in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps. If we understand how it is possible to keep light so stable for such a long time, it would provide opportunities to use that protein or reaction in biomedical, bioengineering and other fields -- the same way other proteins have been used.

The report appears as the cover story in the current issue of the journal Invertebrate Biology.