Photinus marginellus is a very interesting insect that has captured the imagination of the minds of people ever since childhood due to the beautiful light structure in their abdomen. The flashing light that enchanted fields and yards of homes all across North and South America  was a reason to explore the outside, yet as a whole, very little is known about Photinus marginellus (Luk. et al 2011). Jamie and I chose Photinus marginellus to help get a better understanding of the insect that is seen as amazing and beautiful. The first intersting fact is what seems to be the most beautiful part of the Photinus marginellus, is actually a chemical reaction occurring internally, to help protect the organism for needs of survival.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Figure 1. This complex molecule is called Lucibufagins. The Photinus marginellus produces this compound by means of defense to deter predators by making the organism distasteful.

    Photinus marginellus  produces a defensive compound called lucibufagins (Fig 1). To learn more about lucibufagins look at Thomas Eisner's and others through their document called Firefly "femmes fatales" acquire defensive steriods (lucibufagins) from their firefly prey.  Lucibufagins is secreted to deter predators from eating them such as different birds and other vertebrates (Luk, et al 2011; Eisner et al, 1978).  This defensive compound, shown to deter other animals from eating Photinus marginellus, is also found in other animals such as toads, glow worms, and even in plants to also to discourage predators (Eisner et al,1978).  This is a really cool adaptation that Photinus marginellus has acquired that is proven to actually work, and has ties to different animals that have similar defense mechanisms. It is also a reason why Photinus marginellus is such a tasty treat to Photuris genus who want to obtain the lucibufagnis steriod, to which they can not create on their own.

 Courtesy of Wikipedia

         The next cool thing about Photinus marginellus is the amount of light that is put off in wavelengths versus how much we actually are able to see. One thousandths of the energy expanded in to the flash that Photinus marginellus gives off is converted into heat waves. The heat waves go out as visible flashes that our human naked eye can see. We can see only ten percent of the heat waves that are given off during these flashes (Townseni, 1904). The fact that humans are only able to visually see ten percent is amazing! That means there is ninety percent of heat waves that we cannot see which adds up to a large amount of non-visible light still produced. Think of what the flash would look like if we even just saw twenty five percent… fifty percent? It is quite a difference.   
           As one can see the Photinus marginellus is not just your average insect flashing about on a summer’s eve. Photinus marginellus is one interesting insect that can pack a punch, out think its predators, and give off only ten percent of its heat wave in light. There is so much more to this small insect than one could ever imagine.

Home     <Interactions     Reference>