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The Exhibition

Creatures of Light explores extraordinary organisms that produce light—from fireflies to deep-sea fishes and even mushrooms.

© FMNH\L. Smith and AMNH\J. Sparks

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Live Splitfin Flashlight fish will be on display in the exhibition.

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.

Sneak-Peek Videos

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 night-time forest with many glowing spots.

    © Tsuneaki Hiramatsu, digitalphoto.cocolog-nifty.com

    A slow shutter speed produced this stunning image of firefly signals in Japan.

  • Several crystal jellies (Aequorea victoria) that are glowing purple and blue.

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    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.

  • View of a section of the exhibition.

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    This section of the exhibition evokes an evening lit by fireflies, all signalling to one another in their species-specific "language of light.

  • A model of an anglerfish (Linophryne sp.) about to eat a prey fish.

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    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.

  • Children circle a towering, glowing model of a mushroom.

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    This oversized model represents a jack-o-lantern mushroom around 40 times the mushroom's actual size.

  • A photo of a scorpion under UV light, and a photo of a scorpion under regular light.

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    Scorpions fluoresce under ultraviolet light.

  • A child touches a computer-interactive screen in front of an image of a coral reef and a turtle.

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    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.

  • A large-scale model of a male blue-ghost firefly (Phausis reticulata).

    © AMNH\D. Finnin

    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.