CCD imaging of basal bioluminescence in larval fireflies: clues on the anatomic origin and evolution of bioluminescence.
The anatomic and biochemical origin of beetle bioluminescence is still poorly understood. Through CCD imaging we report that larvae and pupae of the Brazilian fireflies Aspisoma lineatum and Cratomorphus sp emit a continuous weak glow throughout the entire body during all stages. This luminescence is especially developed after feeding, ecdysis and in the pupal stage, gradually disappearing as the cuticle becomes sclerotized and the adult emerges. This weak glow arises from the fat body, which consists of small lobes spread all over the body cavity. According to their pigmentation, these lobes can be divided in whitish and pinkish, and display different luciferase isozymes. Morphological studies suggest that the jelly-like ventral lanterns in the 8th abdominal segment evolved from these white lobes, providing a rationale for the widespread location of lanterns in larvae of different bioluminescent beetles. The biological and biochemical function of this weak diffuse bioluminescence is discussed in the context of the larval life-history.
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