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Recently Discovered Bioluminescent Cockroach May Already Be Extinct Due to Volcanic Eruption

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Vršanský, Lucihormetica luckae, bioluminescent, insect, roach, volcano

A remarkable new species of bioluminescent roach (Lucihormetica luckae) had only just begun to distinguish itself to the scientific community.  Its patterns for illumination are nearly identical to the poisonous click beetle, with which it shared a habitat. What makes Luchhormetica luckae even more unique is that as quickly as it was discovered, it may well have been rendered extinct by a volcanic eruption.  The paper documenting the discovery was just published in July 2012, but no specimens have been found since the  2010 eruption of the Tungurahua Volcano, where it was known to live, in Ecuador.

Luchhormetica luckae was also the first documented case of asymmetrical bioluminescence (two spots resembling eyes appear on its upper back and a third spot is visible on its right side) as well as the only known incidence of bioluminescence via mimicry.

Lucihormetica luckae’s luminescence is (or was) generated by symbiotic bacteria cohabitating inside tiny divots along the roach’s body. The chemical reaction of bioluminescence occurs most frequently in seafaring organisms. The deep-sea dwelling anglerfish (Lophius piscatorius) uses its bioluminescent abilities to attract prey, while the firefly (Photuris lucicrescens), is known to use bioluminescence to attract mates. What Luchhormetica luckae used its bioluminescent abilities for, the world may never know.

Photo: Vršanský et al.

Citation: Vršanský P, Chorvát D, Fritzsche I, Hain M, & Ševčík R (2012). ‘Light-mimicking cockroaches indicate Tertiary origin of recent terrestrial luminescence’. Die Naturwissenschaften, 99 (9), 739-49 PMID: 22864963

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