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Periodic table of (weather) elements: bioluminescence and oxygen

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, May 15, 2014, 1:52 - From fireflies to glow worms to jellyfish, there are quite a few animals that have the ability to create their own light through a process called bioluminesence.

While only a handful land-dwelling plants and animals can make their own light, researchers estimate that between 80 and 90 percent of deep-ocean animals are bioluminous.

Most animals emit a green or blue light because these colours travel well in a dark environment.

There are a few reasons why some plants and animals may have developed this ability. It's believed to help animals attract prey and communicate with one another.

In some instances, it can also act as a decoy. Some squid and shrimp species can release a glowing cloud of ink which is used to distract predators as the animal makes a getaway.

HOW DOES BIOLUMINESCENCE WORK?

In humans, chemical energy is released as heat -- but bioluminous animals can also release heat in the form of light, courtesy of a compound called luciferin.

When luciferin is exposed to oxygen it creates a chemical reaction that emits light.

INCREDIBLE EXAMPLES OF BIOLUMINESCENT ANIMALS AND PLANTS


Fireflies

Courtesy: Takashi Ota/Flickr


The fungus panellus stipticus

Courtesy: Wikipedia


Several species of jellyfish


Pillar coral

Courtesy: Wikipedia


Bobtail squid

Courtesy: Wikipedia


Shortnose greeneye fish

Courtesy: Wikipedia

WHAT IS OXYGEN?

This colourless, odourless element is everywhere -- and it's the key component in creating bioluminesence. 

Oxygen makes up about 20 percent of the Earth's atmosphere, and that's a good thing.

Nearly every living organism on the planet requires it to live and Earth is the only known planet with enough oxygen to sustain us.

The element was first isolated by chemist Joseph Priestly in 1774.


WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PERIODIC TABLE OF ELEMENTS? Learn about the role sulphur played in the formation of the Dallol salt flat


You can find oxygen in the air we breathe and the water we drink -- but it has a number of other applications as well.

In addition to helping create bioluminesence, oxygen is used in water treatment processes and to burn spaceship fuel.

Hot oxygen air is used to create steel and iron and some mining companies use it to destroy rocks.

Periodic table of weather elements: Sulphur and the Dallol salt flat
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