Photinus courtesy of Don Salvatore


Photinus ignitus is a nocturnal firefly that is characterized by its bioluminescence (Cratsley & Lewis, 2005).  Most people know this organism by its common name, firefly or lightning bug.  The taxonomy for this organism is as follows (ADW, 2013):

          Domain – Eukarya
          Kingdom – Animalia
          Phylum – Arthropoda
          Class - Insecta  
          Order – Coleoptera
          Family – Lampyridae
          Genus – Photinus
          Species - Photinus ignitus

Phylogenetic tree of the family Lampyridae courtesy of Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve
Figure 1. A phylogenetic tree displaying the largest and most diverse suborder of beetles, Polyphaga.  Elateriformia is the infraorder that Photinus ignitus belongs to.  The superfamilies are in bold (Cantharoidea is the superfamily that Photinus ignitus falls in).  The families are above the superfamily (Photinus ignitus is part of the Lampyridae family).

                                           Phylogenetic tree of the species Photinus ignitus courtesy of Marc Branham
Figure 2. A morphological phylogenetic tree shown in the research article by Branham & Wenzel.  The tree shows the difference in photic signals produced among the many species of fireflies.  These photic signals are used to elicit courtship and pair formation among the fireflies.  Photinus ignitus falls under signal system II, which is when one sex, usually the male, flies around and displays a species-specific signal that is then answered by the opposite sex with their own species-specific response. The closest related organism shown here on this tree is Photinus meteoralis (Branham & Wenzel, 2002).

The reason for classification!

Eukarya cell courtesy of Anna TanczosDomain: Eukarya
There are a vast amount of organisms under the domain eukarya.  To be classified as eukaryotic, an organism must have cells that contain a membrane bound nucleus, as well as other structures enclosed within membranes, called organelles.  Another organism that is placed uder this category is the Coprinopsis atramentaria (tippler's bane).


elephant courtesy of Brittany HockKingdom: Animalia
Organisms in the kingdom animalia are all multicellular and have some type of skeletal support.  Animals are heterotrophic, meaning they obtain their food by ingesting complex organic substances for nutrition.  You will see some type of skeletal support in all animals as well as cells that are specialized for particular functions.  Animals reproduce sexually.  Take a look at another animal, Hapalochlaena lunulata ( the greater blue-ringed octopus).

Crab courtesy of Peter RowleyPhylum: Arthropoda
The characteristics of arthropods include having segmented bodies and jointed appendages. As for skeletal support, they possess a chitinous exoskeleton that is shed periodically as the arthropod grows.  The phylum arthropoda has a true coelom and are bilaterally symmetrical.  Arthropods are protostomes, which means that the mouth develops before the anus in embryonic development.  A well-known, dangerous arthopod that should be checked out in more detail is the Lactrodectus sp. (black widow spider).

Walking stick courtesy of Aaron ChenowethClass: Insecta
Insects are the most diverse of all animal groups.  Along with the three main body parts, insects also have three pairs of legs.  Each insect has two pairs of wings.  Compound eyes and complex mouth parts are present in this class.  Insects undergo metamorphosis and generally all have a small body size.  There are more species of insects than there are species of all other animals combined.  Take a glance at another species that belongs to this diverse group, Aeshna sitchensis (Zigzag Darner dragonfly).

Beetle courtesy of Michael JohnsonOrder: Coleoptera
Coleoptera is Greek for “sheathed wing.”  Beetles have two pairs of wings, the top pair (elytra) being enlarged and thick for protection of the delicate wings underneath.  The name 'Coleoptera' commonly signifies beetles (The Free Dictionary, 2013).  Check out this unique species Pelidnota punctata (grapevine beetle).

Firefly courtesy of Matthew O'DonnellFamily: Lampyridae
Lampyridae is use to describe a group of beetles, most of them being commonly named the firefly.  The beetles in this group have elongated bodies.  The wing coverings (elytra) mentioned in Order: Coleoptera are not as hard and thick when compared to other beetles.  Lampyridae contains many nocturnal species that have bioluminescence organs (Merriam-Webster, 2013).  Another interesting species to read about is Photinus pyralis (firefly).

Firefly courtesy of Terry PriestGenus: Photinus
Photinus refers to rover fireflies.  Photinus beetles emit signals or patterns of light to attract their mates.  The organ that emits the light covers the last three posterior segments on the ventral side.  The Photinus marginellus (firefly) is a species that fits these qualities.

Photinus ignitus courtesy of Don SalvatoreSpecies: Photinus ignitus
The scientific name of Photinus ignitus literally means "rover of fire", refering to the flashing glows made during the night.  Photinus ignitus is a species that is nocturnal and can produce bioluminescent flashes for a variety of reasons.  They inhabit the northeastern part of the United States, where they prefer the scenery of marshes.  Photinus ignitus contains steriodal pyrones that give them an unpalatable taste, deterring most predators.


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