Creatures of Light

By Alan Viau

I admit that I geek out on science and technology stuff.  Creatures of Light, the new exhibit that just opened at the Canadian Museum of Nature, not only geeked me out scientifically but also appealed to my sense of wonder and mystery.

Subtitled Nature’s Bioluminescence, this exhibit  explores extraordinary organisms that produce light—from fireflies to deep-sea fishes and even mushrooms. At the opening, it was explained that no mammal, bird or reptile has the ability to biochemically emit light. Only lower class organisms seem to have this ability. They use the light to attract mates, lure unsuspecting prey and defend against predators.

Visually dramatic, informative and immersive, the exhibition explores the diversity of organisms that glow, and how they do it.

It was mesmerizing to see live flashlight fish! Their light comes from bacteria that live in organs under each eye. The bacteria produce their bioluminescent glow through a chemical reaction. These fish—known as Splitfin Flashlightfish—live in tropical coral-reef habitats, and the museum has special permission to display them. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to admire them.

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Live Splitfin Flashlight fish will be on display in the exhibition.

The many immersive sections let you wander through environments that range from the familiar to the extreme, such as

    a night-time meadow filled with flashing fireflies

    a woodland floor with bioluminescent mushrooms

    a cave system where glow worms drop sticky threads from their bioluminescent tails to ensnare prey

    a sparkling sea where microscopic dinoflagellates, planktonic organisms, create a glowing halo around anything that moves through the water

    the deep ocean where mysterious creatures lurk, including vampire squids and anglerfishes with their gaping jaws

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The exhibition also explains how, where and why scientists study the amazing bioluminescence phenomenon.

The exhibit is here through November 9, 2014. It is a magical journey into a world we know little about.

Note: No photography is permitted in this exhibition.

All Photos are courtesy of the Canadian Museum of Nature

 

 

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