When we, today’s adults, went on field trips as children, we enjoyed the firefly light show at night as usual. On the other hand, today children who see a lone firefly flying absentmindedly can feel happy. Firefly lights they disappear over the years it becomes a rarity and the truth is that we are to blame, without realizing it, ourselves. The very ones who in childhood liked to watch their colorful dance.
There are approximately 2000 kinds of fireflies World. Many of them are in varying degrees of danger and are listed in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. And the reasons, although they may vary from one to another, are basically three: habitat destruction, pesticide use and light pollution.
These three factors in the extinction of fireflies are directly related to human activity. For this reason, scientists specializing in the conservation of these insects have already launched awareness campaigns to try to stop their extinction, and hopefully our children and our children’s children will also be able to enjoy those flying lights that fascinated us so much when we were children. .
Fireflies are beetles, so while it may not seem like it, they are related to beetles. Their greatest feature is the light that serves them for communicate with each other and, above all, that males and females of the same species meet and can begin their marriage ritual.
It is also believed that the light serves them as a defense, as this would confuse predators who wanted to eat them. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the larvae also have light, despite the fact that they do not yet need to mate.
As for the origin of light, it is connected with a phenomenon known as bioluminescence. These insects in the abdomen a molecule called luciferin, which is oxidized in the presence of oxygen. With minimal energy input, this reaction, driven by an enzyme called luciferase, produces light in a very efficient way. Luciferin is excited by oxidation, and when it returns to its original state, it emits light with little to no heat.
One way to see its effectiveness is to compare it to a light bulb. Usually in this invention, which we consider a panacea for lighting, 90% of the energy consumed is released as heat, and only 10% is used to produce light. In contrast, fireflies use nearly 100% of their energy to produce light.
Each species has patterns and even different colors of light. May be blue, green or red, continuous or discontinuous, more or less spaced. This allows fireflies of the same species to recognize each other and at the same time is a headache for scientists because they do not know how they do it.
Why isn’t it always the same color?
One of the most studied mysteries is how, with the help of the same molecule, which is luciferin, emit light of different colors. For many years it was believed that the cause of temperature change is active site cavity size luciferase. Enzymes are proteins that catalyze reactions as a means of facilitating their course. This is due to several components, including the active center, the cavity to which the substrate is attached, on which they act. In this case, the Luciferian. It was believed that the larger cavity allowed more energy to be lost so that it could be emitted at higher wavelengths corresponding to red. On the other hand, if it were smaller, the light would be blue or green, corresponding to shorter wavelengths.
However, a 2010 study contradicts this hypothesis and indicates that although associated with the active site cavity, it appears to be associated rather with microenvironment what is formed in this That is, in the presence of, for example, water molecules or residues of other proteins.
Be that as it may, it is clear that each species of firefly is unique and this is what helps them communicate. The keys are still a mystery to people, which makes them even more fascinating.
Here’s how we’re contributing to the extinction of fireflies
Sarah Lewis, professor of biology at Tufts University in the US, has spent years studying the factors leading to the extinction of many species of fireflies. According to his research, there are three main causes: habitat destruction, light pollution, and the use of pesticides. But how does all this lead to his death, and how can it be prevented?
Habitat destruction, fireflies’ worst enemy
During the day, fireflies remain protected from sunlight and any other lighting. under the forest canopies. So, when night falls, they can go out into the darkness and begin their ritual of lights. These plants not only hide them from the light, but also give them a place to live. Therefore, when trees and bushes are cut down to build fields, farms or buildings, the life of fireflies is indirectly stopped.
A good example of all this is pteroptyx isfirefly, which usually lives in Malaysia, in mangroves which have been destroyed over the years to establish aquaculture farms and grow palm trees for oil.
The problem of light pollution
As far as possible, fireflies they need almost complete darkness. Therefore, during the day they shelter from the sun. They can live under moonlight, but nothing more. Once everything is filled with street and other artificial lights, they become confused, unable to distinguish their own light from light bulbs, and may face two different fates. Either fly to the street lights and get burned alive, or never find yours. mating partners. This, of course, can lead to the death of entire species.
In addition, it has been found that when fireflies spend a lot of time in artificial light, they lose intensity in their own light. With all this, light pollution, already dangerous for other insects, has become a serious problem for fireflies.
The case of pesticides
Pesticides are commonly used to kill insect pests that attack crops. But there is a big problem, and that is that they are usually not specific. even when they naturalHow Bt toxin, attack insects in general, releasing the toxin at the pH of their digestive system. For this reason, other species that did not harm crops may drop dead, such as fireflies themselves.
What we can do?
You can’t completely change your lifestyle to save fireflies. However, we can take some measures, such as not contributing to light pollution, Avoid over-illumination of field areas.
You can also look for options for pests such as biological controlbased on insects that attack other insect pests.
As for deforestation, it’s more of a question in the hands of transnational corporationsbut we can try to reduce our consumption of foods with ingredients like palm oil, which are needed by these habitat-destroying macro crops of animals like fireflies.
These are small actions so that the day will come when seeing the magical night dance of fireflies will again become a habit, not luck.
Source: Hiper Textual