Illuminating Findings

The flickering lights of fireflies have charmed children for centuries

10-01-2001 // NWF Staff

The flickering lights of fireflies have charmed children for centuries. They have also puzzled researchers, who wondered how the creatures pulse their love lights so precisely. A group of Boston scientists recently solved this mystery. They found that fireflies produce nitric oxide, a gas also found in the human body. The gas turns off energy-producing structures in the creature's abdominal lantern cells, prompting a flash, then quickly dissipates. "Amazingly," says researcher Barry Trimmer, "it's a temporary cut in the power supply that probably triggers the firefly flash."

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