Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 51–68 | Cite as

Physiological Links in Firefly Flash Code Evolution

  • John BuckEmail author
  • James Case


New and reassessed neurophysiological observations on dialog fireflies permit (1) parsimonious inferences about the origin and fixation of light emission in the primeval firefly, (2) proof of widespread involvement of a stable species-specific minimal stimulus–response interval in timed flashing behaviors of both genders, (3) strengthening of the evidence for certain normally latent flash control intervals common to both male and female, (4) assignment of possible roles in the evolution of time-coded courting dialog to these data, and (5) evaluation of the evolutionary status of certain present-day species.

firefly behavior evolution communication luminescence neurophysiology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES [Where possible we have limited citations by using reviews or author's later papers.]

  1. Alexander, R. D. (1962). Evolutionary changes in cricket acoustical communication. Evolution 16: 443–467.Google Scholar
  2. Bagnoli, P., Brunelli, M., Magni, F., and Pellegrino, M. (1973). Central and peripheral mechanisms in the control of the diurnal rhythm of flashing in Luciola lusitanica (Charp.). Arch. Ital. Biol. 111: 170–186.Google Scholar
  3. Bagnoli, P., Brunelli, M., Magni, F., and Musameci, D. (1976). Neural mechanisms underlying spontaneous flashing and its modulation in the firefly Luciola lusitanica. J. Comp. Physiol. A 108: 133–156.Google Scholar
  4. Baldaccini, N. E., Fiaschi, V., and Papi, F. (1970). Rhythmic synchronous flashing in a Bosnian firefly. Monit. Zool. Ital. (N.S.) 3: 239–245.Google Scholar
  5. Barber, H. S. (1952). North American fireflies of the genus Photuris. Smithson. Misc. Coll. 117: 1–58.Google Scholar
  6. Boake, C. R. B. (1991). Coevolution of senders and receivers of sexual signals: Genetic coupling and genetic correlations. Trends Ecol. Evol. 6: 225–227.Google Scholar
  7. Bradbury, J. W., and Vehrencamp, S. L. (1998). Principles of Animal Communication, Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.Google Scholar
  8. Brunelli, M., and Magni, F. (1984). Sensorimotor integration in an insect's brain: The neurophysiological basis for the flashing dialog in the firefly Luciola lusitanica (Charp.). In Creutzfeldt, O., Schmidt, R. F., and Willis, W. D. (eds.), Sensorimotor integration in the Nervous System. Exp. Brain Res. Suppl. 9: 393–410.Google Scholar
  9. Brunelli, M., Magni, F., and Pellegrino, M. (1977). Excitatory and inhibitory events elicited by brief photic stimuli on flashing of the firefly Luciola lusitanica (Charp.). J. Comp. Physiol. A 119: 15–35.Google Scholar
  10. Buck, J. B. (1937a). Studies on the firefly. I. The effects of light and other agents on flashing in Photinus pyralis, with special reference to periodicity and diurnal rhythm. Physiol. Zool. 10: 45–58.Google Scholar
  11. Buck, J. B. (1937b). Studies on the firefly. II. The signal system and color vision in Photinus pyralis. Physiol. Zool. 10: 412–419.Google Scholar
  12. Buck, J. B. (1937c). Flashing of fireflies in Jamaica. Nature 139: 801.Google Scholar
  13. Buck, J. B. (1938). Synchronous rhythmic flashing of fireflies. Q. Rev. Biol. 13: 301–314.Google Scholar
  14. Buck, J. (1948). The anatomy and physiology of the light organ in fireflies. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 49: 397–482.Google Scholar
  15. Buck, J. (1962). Some physical aspects of insect respiration. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 7: 27–56.Google Scholar
  16. Buck, J. (1978). Functions and evolutions of bioluminescence. In Herring, P. J. (ed.), Bioluminescence in Action,Academic, New York, pp. 419–460.Google Scholar
  17. Buck, J. (1988). Synchronous rhythmic flashing of fireflies. II. Q. Rev. Biol. 63: 265–289.Google Scholar
  18. Buck, J. (1990). Unisex flash controls in dialog fireflies. Biol. Bull. 179: 87–95.Google Scholar
  19. Buck, J., and Buck, E. (1972). Photic signaling in the firefly Photinus greeni. Biol. Bull. 142: 195–205.Google Scholar
  20. Buck, J., and Buck, E. (1978). Toward a functional interpretation of synchronous flashing by fireflies. Am. Nat. 112: 471–492.Google Scholar
  21. Buck, J., and Case J. F. (1961). Control of flashing in fireflies. I. The lantern as a neuroeffector organ. Biol. Bull. 121: 234–256.Google Scholar
  22. Buck, J., and Case, J. F. (1986). Flash control and female dialog repertory in the firefly Photinus greeni. Biol. Bull. 170: 176–197.Google Scholar
  23. Buonamici, M., and Magni, F. (1967). Nervous control of flashing in the firefly Luciola italica L. Arch. Ital. Biol. 105: 323–338.Google Scholar
  24. Carlson, A. D., and Copeland, J. (1969). Neural control of firefly luminescence. Adv. Insect Physiol. 6: 51–96.Google Scholar
  25. Carlson, A. D., and Copeland, J. (1985). Communication in insects. I. Flash communication in fireflies. Q. Rev. Biol. 60: 415–436.Google Scholar
  26. Case, J. F. (1954) The median nerves and cockroach spiracular function. J. Insect Physiol. 1: 85–94.Google Scholar
  27. Case, J. F. (1984).Vision in mating behavior of fireflies. In Lewis, T. (ed.), Insect Communication, Academic, London, pp. 195–222.Google Scholar
  28. Case, J. F., and Buck, J. (1963). Control of flashing in fireflies. II. Role of central nervous system. Biol. Bull. 125: 234–250.Google Scholar
  29. Case, J. F., and Buck, J. (2001). A neurobiological approach to firefly flash code evolution. In Case, J. F., et al. (eds.), Proc. 11th Int. Symp. Biolum.Chemilum., World, Singapore, pp. 153–156.Google Scholar
  30. Case, J. F., and Strause, L. (1978). Neurally controlled luminescent systems. In Herring, P. J. (ed.), Bioluminescence in Action, Academic, New York, pp. 331–366.Google Scholar
  31. Case, J., and Trinkle, M. S. (1968). Light-inhibition of flashing in the firefly Photuris missouriensis. Biol. Bull. 135: 476–485.Google Scholar
  32. Case, J. F., Haddock, S. H. D., Branham, M. A., Herren, C. M., and Stone, C. F. (1998). Communication in Photinus pyralis fireflies studied in an instrumented flight apparatus. J. Biolum. Chemilum. 13: 236(abstract).Google Scholar
  33. Christensen, T. A., and Carlson, A. D. (1981). Symmetrically organized dorsal unpaired median (DUM) neurones and flash control in the male firefly, Photuris versicolor. J. Exp. Biol. 93: 133–147.Google Scholar
  34. Cicero, J. M. (1983). Lek assembly and flash synchrony in the Arizona firefly Photinus knulli Green (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Coleopt. Bull. 37: 318–342.Google Scholar
  35. De Cock, R., and Matthysen, E. (2001). Aposematism and bioluminescence: Experimental evidence from glow-worm larvae (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Evol. Ecol. 13: 619–639.Google Scholar
  36. Dreisig, H. (1978). The circadian rhythm of bioluminescence in the glowworm, Lampyris noctiluca L. (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 3: 1–18.Google Scholar
  37. Edwards, J. S. (1969). Postembryonic development of the nervous system. Adv. Insect Physiology 6: 97–137.Google Scholar
  38. Ghiradella, H. (1998). The anatomy of light production: The fine structure of the firefly lantern. In Harrison, F. W. (ed.), Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates, Wiley–Liss, New York, Vol. 11B, pp. 363–381.Google Scholar
  39. Hanna, C. H., Hopkins, T. A., and Buck, J. (1976). Peroxisomes of the firefly lantern. J. Ultrastr. Res. 57: 150–162.Google Scholar
  40. Harvey, E. N. (1952). Bioluminescence, Academic, New York.Google Scholar
  41. Harvey, E. N., and Hall, R. T. (1929). Will the adult firefly luminesce if the larval organs are entirely removed? Science 69: 253–254.Google Scholar
  42. Hastings, J. W. (1983). Biological diversity, chemical mechanisms, and the evolutionary origin of bioluminescent systems. J. Mol. Evol. 19: 309–321.Google Scholar
  43. Hastings, J. W. (1998). Bioluminescence. In Sperelakis, N. (ed.), [itCell Physiology Source Book, 2nd ed., Academic Press, New York, pp. 984–1000.Google Scholar
  44. Hess, W. N. (1921). Tracheation of the light-organs of some common Lampyridae. Anat. Rec. 20: 155–161.Google Scholar
  45. Hess, W. N. (1922). Origin and development of the light-organs of Photuris pennsylvanica DeGeer. J. Morphol. 36: 245–277.Google Scholar
  46. Hoyle, G. (1959). The neuromuscular mechanism of an insect spiracular muscle. J. Insect Physiol. 3: 378–394.Google Scholar
  47. Keilin, D. (1944). Respiratory systems and respiratory adaptations in larvae and pupae of Diptera. Parasitology 36: 1–66.Google Scholar
  48. Keller, G.-A, Gould, S. J., DeLuca, M., and Subramani, S. (1987). Firefly luciferase is targeted to peroxisomes in mammalian cells. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 84: 3264–3268.Google Scholar
  49. Lentz, P. H., and Hartline, D. K. (1999). Reaction times and force production during escape behavior of a calinoid copepod, Undinula vulgaris. Mar. Biol. 133: 249–258.Google Scholar
  50. Lloyd, J. E. (1965). Observations on the biology of three luminescent beetles (Coleoptera: Lampyridae, Elateridae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 58: 588–591.Google Scholar
  51. Lloyd, J. E. (1966a). Studies on the flash communication system in Photinus fireflies. Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool. Univ. Mich. No. 130, pp. 1–95.Google Scholar
  52. Lloyd, J. E. (1966b). Two cryptic new firefly species in the genus Photinus (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Coleopt. Bull. 20: 43–46.Google Scholar
  53. Lloyd, J. E. (1969). Flashes, behavior, and additional species of nearctic Photinus fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Coleopt. Bull. 23: 29–40.Google Scholar
  54. Lloyd, J. E. (1972). Chemical communication in fireflies. Environ. Entomol. 1: 265–266.Google Scholar
  55. Lloyd, J. E. (1973). Firefly parasites and predators. Coleopt. Bull. 27: 91–106.Google Scholar
  56. Lloyd, J. E. (1984). Evolution of a firefly flash code. Fla. Entomol. 67: 228–239.Google Scholar
  57. Lloyd, J. E. (1997). Firefly mating ecology, selection and evolution. In Choe, J.C., and Cresp, B.L. (eds.), The Evolution of Mating Systems in Insects and Arachnids, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 184–192.Google Scholar
  58. Locke, M. (1998). The fat body. In Harrison, F., and eiLocke, M. (eds.), Microscopic Anatomy of Invertebrates, Wiley–Liss, New York, Vol. 11B, pp. 641–686.Google Scholar
  59. Magni, F. (1967). Central and peripheral mechanisms in the modulation of flashing in the firefly Luiciola italica L. Arch. Ital. Biol. 105: 339–360.Google Scholar
  60. Maloeuf, N. S. R. (1938). The basis of the rhythmic flashing of the firefly. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 31: 374–380.Google Scholar
  61. Mast, S.O. (1912). Behavior of fire-flies (Photinus pyralis)? with special reference to the problem of orientation. J. Anim. Behav. 2: 256–272.Google Scholar
  62. McDermott, F. A. (1917). Observations on the light-emission of American Lampyridae: The photogenic functions as a mating adaptation; 5th paper. Can. Entomol. 49: 53–61.Google Scholar
  63. McDermott, F. A. (1958). The Fireflies of Delaware, 2nd ed., Soc. Nat. Hist. Dela.Google Scholar
  64. McDermott, F. A., and Buck, J. (1959). The lampyrid fireflies of Jamaica. Trans. Am. Entomol. Soc. 85: 1–112.Google Scholar
  65. McElroy, W. D., and DeLuca, M. (1978). Chemistry of firefly luminescence. In Herring, P. J. (ed.), Bioluminescence in Action, Academic, New York, pp. 109–127.Google Scholar
  66. Neuwirth, M. (1981). Ultrastructure of granules and immunocytochemical localization of luciferase in photocytes of fireflies. Tissue Cell 13: 599–607.Google Scholar
  67. Ohba, N. (1983). Studies on the communication system of Japanese fireflies. Sci. Rept. Yokosuka City Mus. 30: 1–62 [English].Google Scholar
  68. Ohba, N. (1997). Mating behavior of the firefly, Pyrocoelia matsumurai (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Sci. Rept. Yokosuka City Mus. 45: 45–50 [English summary].Google Scholar
  69. Okada, Y. K. (1935). Origin and development of the photogenic organs of lampyrids, with special reference to those of Luciola cruciata and Pyrocoelia rufa Ern. Olivier. Mem. Coll. Sci., Kyoto Imp. Univ. 10B: 209–228.Google Scholar
  70. Otte, D., and Smiley, J. (1977). Synchrony in Texas fireflies with a consideration of male interaction models. Biol. Behav. 2: 143–158.Google Scholar
  71. Papi, F. (1969). Light emission, sex attraction and male flash dialogues in a firefly, Luciola lusitanica (Charp.). Monit. Zool. Ital. (N.S.) 3: 135–184.Google Scholar
  72. Pipa, R. L. (1973). Proliferation, movement and regression of neurons during the postembryonic development of insects. In Young, D. (ed.), Developmental Neurology of Arthropods, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 105–129.Google Scholar
  73. Sala-Newby, G. B., Thomson, C. M., and Campbell, A. K. (1996). Sequence and biochemical similarities between the luciferases of the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca and the firefly Photinus pyralis. Biochem. J. 313: 761–767.Google Scholar
  74. Schwalb, H.H. (1961). Beitrage zur Biologie der einheimischen Lampyriden Lampyris noctiluca Geoffr. und Phausis splendidula Lec. und experimentelle Analyse ihres Beutefang-und Sexualverhaltens. Zool. Jahrb. Syst. 88: 399–550.Google Scholar
  75. Smalley, K. N., Tarwater, D. E., and Davidson, T. L. (1980). Localization of fluorescent compounds in the firefly light organ. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 28: 323–329.Google Scholar
  76. Smith, D. S. (1963). The organization and innervation of the luminescent organ in a firefly, Photuris pennsylvanica (Coleoptera). J. Cell Biol. 16: 323–359.Google Scholar
  77. Strause, L., and Case, J. F. (1981). Neuropharmacological studies on firefly light organs during metamorphosis. J. Insect Physiol. 27: 5–15.Google Scholar
  78. Strause, L. G., DeLuca, M., and Case, J. F. (1979). Biochemical and morphological changes accompanying light organ development in the firefly Photuris pennsylvanica. J. Insect Physiol. 25: 339–347.Google Scholar
  79. Timmins, G. S., Robb, F. J., Wilmot, C. M., Jackson, S. K., and Swartz, H. M. (2001). Firefly flashing is controlled by gating oxygen to light emitting cells. J. Exp. Biol. 204: 2795–2801.Google Scholar
  80. Trimmer, B. A., Aprille, J. R., Dudzinski, D. M., Lagace, C. J., Lewis, S. M., Michel, T., Quazi, S., and Zayas, R. M. (2001). Nitric oxide and the control of firefly flashing. Science 292: 2486–2488.Google Scholar
  81. Wigglesworth, V. B. (1983). The physiology of insect tracheoles. Adv. Insect Physiol. 17: 86–148.Google Scholar
  82. Williams, F.X. (1916). Photogenic organs and embryology of lampyrids. J. Morphol. 28: 145–207.Google Scholar
  83. Wood, K. V. (1995). The chemical mechanism and evolutionary development of beetle luminescence. Photochem. Photobiol. 62: 662–673.Google Scholar
  84. Zeng, H., Loughton, B. G., and Jennings, K. R. (1996). Tissue specific transduction systems for octopamine in the locust (Locusta migratoria). J. Insect Physiol. 42: 765–776.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sykesville
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of California Santa BarbaraSanta Barbara

Personalised recommendations