Journal of Undergraduate Research


visual systems, new species, bioluminescent fireflies, firefly


Life Sciences




Fireflies are well known for their bioluminescent flashes causing them to be a particular group of interest concerning insect vision research. Their flashes are used for both sexual communication and as an aposematic warning to predators. Bioluminescent fireflies are known to use either a yellow-green flash or a yellow-orange flash to communicate between sexes in order to find a mate. There have been many studies concerning flash patterns’ role in sexual communication among fireflies; however, the understanding of firefly vision as a whole allows for many more untouched research possibilities. As a member of the Bybee lab I had the opportunity to travel to country of Rwanda in search of fireflies. While in Rwanda we found a species of fireflies attracted to a red LED light, measuring at a wavelength of 630nm, used in a firefly trap, preliminarily identified as Diaphanes sp. This presented many questions concerning firefly bioluminescence and their visual systems considering fireflies are not known to see or bioluminesce at such long wavelengths of light. The purpose of this project was to further investigate the visual systems of the collected Rwandan fireflies, answer whether or not there is evidence of a red shifted luciferase in the collected specimens and describe the collected specimens as a new species.

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