Natures wonders: Glowing for protection (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, May 05, 2015, 17:31 (1754 days ago) @ David Turell

These millipedes glow to warn predators they are poisonous with cyanide:

"The bug, Xystocheir bistipita, had been collected in 1967 and was not seen again until Marek rediscovered it during fieldwork in the foothills of San Luis Obispo, California.

"Diminutive in size compared to other millipedes, the species lives at a lower elevation with few predators and was not thought to belong to the genus of millipedes that glow called Motyxia -- the only genus of bioluminescent millipedes in the Western Hemisphere.

"After sequencing the bug's DNA, he found that it was in fact related to its luminous cousins, and changed its name to Motyxia bistipita.

"Unlike fireflies that glow because of an enzymatic reaction between a luciferase and a luciferin, M. bistipita owes its soft green-blue glow to the reaction of a photoprotein that requires magnesium.

"This process may have initially evolved for its antioxidant properties to cope with the oxidative stress of living in a low-lying, dry environment.
(my bold. Note the guess-work about an evolutionary story)

"Bioluminescence was then repackaged as a nocturnal warning signal in millipedes that live at a higher elevation and contend with many more predators."

"'After we sequenced them we were able to place the millipede on an evolutionary tree with other bioluminescent species in Motyxia," Marek said. "We demonstrated the faint bioluminescence of the low-lying millipedes represented"

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