December 18, 2010


This tiny marine snail has a unique way of protecting itself. When it feels threatened, it lights up its plain, yellowish shell and emits a bright, neon green light. It probably makes it appear larger than it is to potential predators. In a laboratory experiment, scientists found that the snail lit up when confronted by crabs and swimming shrimp.

The snail, Hinea brasiliana, is a type of clusterwink snail that is typically found bunched up in groups along rocky shorelines. The green glow results from a phenomenon known as bioluminescence - or light made by living animals (pronounced "bio-loom-i-NESS-ens"). The most familiar example of bioluminescence is the firefly, which is actually a beetle. Fireflies use the flickering patterns of light to attract mates.

 Photo: Dimitri Deheyn / SIO / UCSD 

Posted by: Liz Nealon

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