Glowworms Are Stars of the New Zealand Night
“If you want to experience a starry night in New Zealand even when it’s cloudy, there’s an option. When foul weather hides the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds of the southern skies, you can look for glowworms,” Karen London writes in an article for the Arizona Daily Sun.
“New Zealand glowworms are bioluminescent flies. Their bluish-green light attracts prey – various small invertebrates including caddisflies, moths, midges, mosquitoes, mayflies, small millipedes and small snails. The light is produced by a chemical reaction involving luciferin (a light-emitting compound), luciferase (an enzyme that acts on luciferin), ATP (the energy molecule) and oxygen.
“Glowworms spin a web to attach themselves to any ceiling-like surface in their natural habitat. Each individual produces dozens of strands of thread that hang down and are covered in mucous droplets. These threads descending from the glowworms’ webs are so sticky that the small animals drawn in by the light become stuck in them, which is why the threads are called ‘snares’. Any wind can easily snarl these strands, rendering them useless, so glowworms must be out of the wind, in places such as caves or deep in the rainforest.
“The name glowworm has its benefits and its downsides. One problem with the name is that it makes it easy to confuse them with other bioluminescent insects, even though they are very different. Fireflies, despite their name, are actually beetles, as are click beetles and glowworm beetles, whereas the glowworms of New Zealand are flies. On the bright side (yes, I’m aware of the pun), the name sounds quite lovely, especially when compared to the more official term of ‘fungus gnat.’
“The most famous nocturnal animal in New Zealand is the iconic flightless bird called the kiwi, but the glowworms are pretty cool, too.”
Original article by Karen London, Arizona Daily Sun, April 2, 2018.
Photo by Fancy Yancy.