Mahlon G. Kelly mgk at faraday.clas.Virginia.EDU
Tue Oct 22 03:10:02 EST 1996

"WE.Chan"  writes:
> Why do fireflies glow?  Is it a chemical reaction?

Nope, it's not really a chemical reaction. They like to fly
into campfires and burn up.

Sorry. I should not be so nasty. But of course the production
of any light at a temperature less than that of the suns
surface must be a chemical reaction. In the case of fireflies,
it is an enzyme-substrate reaction, commonly called a
luciferin-luciferase reaction. However, there are many
organisms that produce luminescence, and the chemicals may be
very different. There are many survival reasons for
luminescence. With fireflies, it is species recognition and
mating. But that is the simplest.
Associate Professor (Emeritus)
University of Virginia
mgk at

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