bio·​lu·​mi·​nes·​cence | \ ˌbī-ō-ˌlü-mə-ˈne-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce bioluminescence (audio) \

Definition of bioluminescence

: the emission of light from living organisms (such as fireflies, dinoflagellates, and bacteria) as the result of internal, typically oxidative chemical reactions also : the light so produced

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Other Words from bioluminescence

bioluminescent \ ˌbī-​ō-​ˌlü-​mə-​ˈne-​sᵊnt How to pronounce bioluminescence (audio) \ adjective

Examples of bioluminescence in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The descent into the canyon takes hours, and sunlight quickly fades into twinkling bioluminescence until the sub lands and its lights snap on, revealing a sparkling, obsidian world of pillow lava and black smokers ringed with tube worms. Sabrina Imbler, The Atlantic, "An Epic Journey to Adulthood Begins in the Intestines of a Deep-Sea Fish," 16 Feb. 2021 Whereas bioluminescence involves chemicals interacting within a fish’s body, biofluorescence is produced by outside light, of which there is little in the ocean’s depths. Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American, "Iron Man-like Exosuit to Expand Ocean Exploration [Video]," 3 Mar. 2014 The team hopes to replicate the tube worm’s unique photoprotein—or a protein linked to bioluminescence—to illuminate cancer cells during surgery. Rachael Lallensack, Smithsonian Magazine, "Ten Scientific Discoveries From 2020 that May Lead to New Inventions," 28 Dec. 2020 Beachgoers flocked to see the dazzling displays of bioluminescence, flashes of green or blue light visible at night. San Diego Union-Tribune, "North County: A Year in Review," 27 Dec. 2020 During the summer, paddlers can also check out the blue-glowing bioluminescence of dinoflagellates in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Patrick Connolly,, "Looking for a last-minute present? Give the gift of the outdoors with these ideas," 22 Dec. 2020 Deep sea creatures commonly produce flashy displays of bioluminescence to attract prey, so an ultra-black skin can help fish in the vicinity avoid illumination. Danielle Hall, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Top Ten Ocean Stories of 2020," 17 Dec. 2020 Because very little sunlight reaches these regions, any light that is produced is typically coming from another organism—like those that use bioluminescence—and there is a good chance that that organism is looking for a meal. Courtney Sexton, Smithsonian Magazine, "Elusive, Ultra-Black Fish Are Cloaked to Survive in the Deep Ocean," 21 July 2020 This study found a gene similar to the one in animals like jellyfish, which could mean that animals using bioluminescence could have a common ancestor. Popular Science, "We finally know why sea pickles glow," 22 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bioluminescence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bioluminescence

1916, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bioluminescence

International Scientific Vocabulary

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Time Traveler for bioluminescence

Time Traveler

The first known use of bioluminescence was in 1916

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Statistics for bioluminescence

Last Updated

2 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bioluminescence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for bioluminescence


bio·​lu·​mi·​nes·​cence | \ ˌbī-ō-ˌlü-mə-ˈnes-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce bioluminescence (audio) \

Medical Definition of bioluminescence

: the emission of light from living organisms also : the light so produced

Other Words from bioluminescence

bioluminescent \ -​ᵊnt How to pronounce bioluminescence (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on bioluminescence

Nglish: Translation of bioluminescence for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about bioluminescence

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