Creatures of Light
Plan your visit: Hours, directions, parking, what's on, and more.
Creatures of Light explores extraordinary organisms that produce light—from fireflies to deep-sea fishes and even mushrooms.
Visually dramatic, informative and immersive, the exhibition explores the diversity of organisms that glow, and how they do it. For some, that means "hosting" others that do the glowing for them!
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. Because these fish—known as Splitfin Flashlightfish—live in tropical coral-reef habitats, this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Ever wondered what purpose the light serves? You'll find out how it is used to attract mates, lure unsuspecting prey and defend against predators.
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 tail 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, such as anglerfishes with their gaping jaws, and vampire squids.
The exhibition also explains how, where and why scientists study the amazing bioluminescence phenomenon.
Note: No photography is permitted in this exhibition.
In the exhibition, videos will introduce you to scientists whose work contributes to the exploration of bioluminescence.
Watch the videos below to meet Canadian Museum of Nature scientists Bob Anderson, Kathy Conlan, André Martel and Michel Poulin.
Four videos: Total time 9 min. 50 sec.
Photos of the Exhibition
Click on these photos of the exhibition to see a larger, complete version.
A slow shutter speed produced this stunning image of firefly signals in Japan.
When this jellyfish is poked or jostled, spots on its rim light up like an emerald necklace. Its beautiful glow is both bioluminescent and fluorescent. Inside its light organs, a chemical reaction makes blue bioluminescent light, and a fluorescent molecule turns the blue light to green.
This section of the exhibition evokes an evening lit by fireflies, all signalling to one another in their species-specific "language of light.
This model of a female anglerfish shows the "lure" filled with bioluminescent bacteria that dangles above her mouth. Luminous tendrils that look like seaweed trail from her chin. If another fish swims up to investigate, it becomes dinner.
This oversized model represents a jack-o-lantern mushroom around 40 times the mushroom's actual size.
Scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light.
This interactive image shows day and night views of a coral wall in the Cayman Islands that is home to many bioluminescent and biofluorescent animals.
This model of a firefly is 65 times actual size. The species, sometimes called a blue ghost, makes light but doesn't flash. Instead, its glow slowly strengthens and fades.
Join the conversation:
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- “Royal Canadian” Diatoms from the Rideau Hall Pond in Ottawa
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Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org), in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, and The Field Museum, Chicago.