Research Topic

Bioluminescence from Land to the Oceans: Its Role in Evolution, Communication, and Ecology

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Bioluminescence is the emission of light by living organisms. Apart from bacteria and fungi, terrestrial luminous animals have been described from only a few phyla (Annelida, Mollusca and Arthropoda) and some 140 genera. Among all terrestrial forms, the biochemistry of the firefly bioluminescent system is one ...

Bioluminescence is the emission of light by living organisms. Apart from bacteria and fungi, terrestrial luminous animals have been described from only a few phyla (Annelida, Mollusca and Arthropoda) and some 140 genera. Among all terrestrial forms, the biochemistry of the firefly bioluminescent system is one of the best known. Luciferases and photoproteins are the enzymes responsible for the oxidative reactions of luciferins leading to the production of bioluminescence in a wide range of organisms. Some bacterial, algal, or beetles photoprotein's structures and luciferase structures are described but others remain unknown. According to biochemical and morphological evidence, bioluminescence arose between 30 and 40 independent times during evolution. The origin, evolution and functions within the phylogeny still have to be explained.

This capability of living organisms is more common in marine ecosystems, with about 75% of pelagic individuals recently quantified from 150 to 4,000m depth. However, in this dark ocean, the understanding of its ecological role is often missing for most species. As an example, the major part of deep-sea invertebrates (Echinoidea, Holothuroidea, Asterozoa…) remains undefined for their bioluminescence capability. In biogeochemistry, particles of organic carbon have been reported colonized by bioluminescent bacteria and microorganisms, potentially acting as a visual target, but its impact on particle's degradation rates is completely unexplored. A better description of colors and vision is one of the tracks to reach the ecological impact of bioluminescence in predator-preys relationships. Another one is to solve technological limits. Indeed, due to the difficulties of sampling living organisms, and technical challenges to explore the deep ocean, there are still few sensors able to detect this light emission in situ or to catch animals in good shape. Most observations are supported by organisms sampled by nets and trawls and brought back on ships, low light cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) or profilers, static photomultipliers in optical modules or bathyphotometers.

For this Research Topic in Frontiers in Marine Science, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution and Frontiers in Microbiology, we invite submission of studies that investigate the role of bioluminescence in evolution, in communication, in biogeochemistry and in ecology as well as new sensors and technology developed to measure bioluminescence. Among the important topics, we will consider studies about fundamental research and theoretical chemistry on bioluminescence, the description of new structure and function of luciferases and their substrates, the biochemistry and biology of bioluminescent organisms, the biodiversity and evolution of bioluminescence from land to deep oceans. We welcome original manuscripts suitable as research articles, reviews, or mini-reviews according to Frontiers' categories for articles (https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/marine-science#article-types). Studies investigating this process in a wide range of organisms including bacteria, mushrooms, insects, invertebrates or fish are welcome.


Keywords: bioluminescence, evolution, communication, terrestrial, marine


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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