Blue Bioluminescence in the Parchment Tube Worm

In other underwater-color-related news, scientists can’t figure out how the parchment tube worm, Chaeteopterus variopedatus, manages to glow blue while most other bioluminescent sea life glows green.  They’re getting closer, though:

Light production usually occurs when two chemicals react together with oxygen to produce a compound that then produces light, [Scripps Institution of Oceanography biologist Dimitri] Deheyn said. In past studies, researchers have found that glowing stops in the absence of oxygen.

But when Deheyn’s team removed oxygen from the tube worm, the worm continued glowing. …

In a separate experiment, the team found that riboflavin — also known as vitamin B2 — plays an important role in the worm’s light production, but its exact role remains unclear.

The blue glow comes from a mucus that the tube worm secretes into a housing tube it builds for itself.

You can read the abstract and part of the introduction to the first paper yourself here.  Not only the worm but also the paper itself actually quite colorful: the authors note that the worm “produces from various parts of its body a bright luminescent mucus that is generated in abundance and somewhat constantly on stimulation; the mucus can be produced in such abundance that when squeezed underwater during scuba diving, a cloud of light is noted puffing out of the tube into the water.”


D. Deheyn, L. Enzor, A. Dubowitz, J. Urbach, and D. Blair. (2013). Optical and Physicochemical Characterization of the Luminous Mucous Secreted by the Marine Worm Chaetopterus sp. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, Vol. 86, pp. 702-705.


One thought on “Blue Bioluminescence in the Parchment Tube Worm

  1. Pingback: Chaetopterus: The Parchment Worm - Reef Aquarium

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