Nature and Science at Work

  • Interest Level: Grade 6 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 8

What do giant squids, mantis shrimp, and fireflies have in common? These animals, along with a wide range of creatures, are able to give off light; this is called bioluminescence. Different species use different chemistries to bioluminesce, and they produce their light for a variety of reasons, including communication, hunting, and self-defense. Bioluminescence is a unique and fascinating adaptation found in the animal kingdom. Surprisingly, about half of all known phyla (a classification for animals that share the same body type) contain some bioluminescent species.

Scientists don’t yet understand all facets of bioluminescence, but they have managed to harness the glow and use it in a myriad of ways. One of the most important applications involves using bioluminescence as a microscope in medical studies. For example, laboratory scientists can create fluorescent malaria parasites to track the path by which the disease is spread from a mosquito to the animal it bites. Bioluminescent proteins are also helping researchers learn more about cancer, HIV and other viruses, and complex neurological processes. In fact, bioluminescent proteins are so useful to twenty-first-century medicine that two groups of scientists, one in 2008 and the other in 2014, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work with these proteins and related technologies. Even artists and fashion designers use bioluminescence in their work to create glowing, light-sensitive paintings and clothing lines. Author Marc Zimmer, a world-renowned specialist in fluorescent proteins, takes readers on a glowing journey into the frontiers of bioluminescence.

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Interest Level Grade 6 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 8
Genre Science, Young Adult
Category Animals, STEM, STEM: Life Science/Animals
Copyright 2016
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Twenty-First Century Books ™
Language English
Number of Pages 72
Publication Date 2015-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 12.9
Text Type Informational/Explanatory
BISACS YAN050030, YAN050130, YAN024030
Dewey 572'.4358
Dimensions 7 x 9
Lexile 1250
ATOS Reading Level 8.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 175854
Accelerated Reader® Points 3.0
Features Bibliography/further reading, Charts/Graphs/Diagrams, Glossary, Index, Reviewed, Sidebars, Source notes, Starred Reviews, and Table of contents

Author: Marc Zimmer

Marc Zimmer is the author of several nonfiction young adult books and a professor at Connecticut College, where he teaches chemistry and studies the proteins involved in producing light in jellyfish and fireflies. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and did his post-doc at Yale University. He has published articles on science and medicine for the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Huffington Post, among many other publications. He lives in Waterford, Connecticut with his wife, their two children, and a genetically modified fluorescent mouse named Prometheus.



“There’s a good deal to admire in this intriguing book. Bioluminescence evokes a sense of wonder . . . yet little information on the topic is available for young people. . . . A fascinating look at bioluminescence and its unexpected applications.”—starred, Booklist

School Library Journal

“Featuring top-notch photos, this succinct presentation of a complex topic will make a stimulating addition to most science collections.”—School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“A comprehensive introduction to biofluorescence and bioluminescence by an expert in the field.”—Kirkus Reviews