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Frost Science's New Exhibit Sheds Light on Creatures That Glow

You probably don't associate the Frost Museum of Science with late-night partying. But its newest exhibit, "Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence," will have guests lingering in a dark, rave-like atmosphere of pulsating lights.

Opening at Frost Science this Saturday, October 6, "Creatures of Light" introduces visitors to the flickering, dazzling world of natural organisms that can behave like living night lights.

From flashing anglerfish and scorpions to glimmering coral and fungi, it's all about bioluminescence, one of nature's most enchanting, mysterious wonders. Produced through a chemical reaction that takes place within an organism, this detectable "cold light," which gives off almost no heat, is emitted in different colors for different purposes.

"There's magic and beauty in the creatures that light up their surroundings, but their glow is also about communication, defense, capturing food," explains Skip Uricchio, director of animal husbandry at the museum.

The phenomenon is rare among organisms that live on land but widespread in the ocean, where up to 90 percent of animals at pitch-black depths below 2,300 feet are bioluminescent. Scientists believe the study of these deep-ocean creatures — such as the crystal jelly, whose glow sparked a revolution in cell biology — could lead to advancements in the medical field and beyond.

Fireflies signal to one another in their "language of light."EXPAND
Fireflies signal to one another in their "language of light."
Courtesy of Frost Science Museum

Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature and Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, the traveling exhibit will fill the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery at Frost Science. With a thought-provoking format to suit adults and older kids, the show will also delight young children through visuals such as larger-than-life overhead models and a woodland floor filled with bioluminescent mushrooms.

The show is a very welcome addition, Uricchio says, because "South Florida does not have many bioluminescent animals. The majority of locals would not get to see one on their own."

In addition to encountering live examples such as flashlight fish and dinoflagellates, visitors can experience immersive replicas of the Waitomo cave system in New Zealand, where glowworms drop sticky threads from their bioluminescent tails to ensnare prey, and an interactive re-creation of Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico, home to dinoflagellates that produce a glowing halo around anything that moves through the water.

The exhibit will also include access to interactive videos with scientists and iPads featuring animations, photographs, and in-depth exhibition information. A symphonic soundtrack by composer Tom Phillips will set a distinctive mood in each section to create a fully immersive audiovisual adventure.

"Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence." Saturday, October 6, through April 21, 2019, at the Frost Museum of Science, 101 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-434-9600; tickets.frostscience.org. Tickets cost $29, and discounts are available for Miami-Dade residents and students.

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