Marine Biology

, 163:255 | Cite as

Bioluminescence spectra from three deep-sea polychaete worms

  • Warren R. Francis
  • Meghan L. Powers
  • Steven H. D. Haddock
Original paper


Bioluminescence is the production of light from living organisms, a phenomenon which is commonplace in the ocean. For polychaetes, because many pelagic species are difficult to catch in good condition, they remain almost completely unstudied compared to coastal species that are more easily captured by researchers. In this work, bioluminescence spectra are reported in vivo from three pelagic species, a blue-green light-emitting specimen of Tomopteris sp. (Phyllodocidae), a genus whose species are generally reported to emit yellow light, and two Flabelligeridae, Poeobius meseres, and Flota flabelligera. All three species generate light along the whole length of the body, at distinct spots for F. flabelligera and Tomopteris sp. The light emission peaks are very similar to each other, ranging from 493 to 497 nm, similar to the in vitro bioluminescence peak for the more thoroughly studied Odontosyllis enopla. This wavelength is red-shifted compared to many other pelagic animals, but blue-shifted compared to polynoid worms. This is the first report of bioluminescence from F. flabelligera and P. meseres and the first reported spectrum of a blue-light-emitting Tomopteris sp from the Pacific.


Polychaete Pelagic Bioluminescence Tomopteris Poeobius Flota 



WRF would like to thank O. Shimomura for helpful advice. We thank the ROV pilots and ship crews for their expert operations.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R01-GM087198) to SHDH. This research was also supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation through the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Animals were collected under permit SC-4029 issued to SHD Haddock by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. All animals were treated humanely, though species used are unprotected and unregulated, and no vertebrates or octopus were used, so the International and NIH ethics guidelines are not invoked.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monterey Bay Aquarium Research InstituteMoss LandingUSA

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