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Firefly
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{{about|the family of insects|the television series|Firefly (TV series)|other uses}}{{Use dmy dates|date=June 2013}}{{Automatic taxobox| image = Photuris lucicrescens.jpg| image_caption = Photuris lucicrescensCirrus Digital Firefly Photuris lucicrescens| image_alt = Photuris lucicrescens| taxon = Lampyridae
Pierre André Latreille>Latreille, 1817| subdivision_ranks = Subfamilies| subdivision =CyphonocerinaeLampyrinaeLuciolinaeOtotretinae (disputed)Photurinaeand see below
Genera incertae sedis:OculogryphusPterotus LeConte, 1859| image2 = Lampyris Noctiluca (firefly) mating.gif| image2_caption = Male and female of the species Lampyris noctiluca mating}}The Lampyridae are a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera with over 2,000 described species. They are soft-bodied beetles that are commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous use of bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates or prey. Fireflies produce a "cold light", with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. This chemically produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green, or pale red, with wavelengths from 510 to 670 nanometers.HowStuffWorks "How do fireflies light up?". Science.howstuffworks.com (19 January 2001). Retrieved on 22 June 2013. Some species such as the dimly glowing "blue ghost" of the Eastern US are commonly thought to emit blue light (. Some, like the European glow-worm beetle, Lampyris noctiluca, have no mouth.Most fireflies are distasteful to many vertebrate predators. This is due at least in part to a group of steroid pyrones known as lucibufagins, which are similar to cardiotonic bufadienolides found in some poisonous toads.JOURNAL
, Eisner, Thomas
, Wiemer, David
, Haynes, Leroy
, Meinwald, Jerrold
, Lucibufagins: Defensive steroids from the fireflies Photinus ignitus and P. marginellus (Coleoptera: Lampyridae)
, 16592501, 1978
, 75
, 2
, 905–908
, 411366
, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 10.1073/pnas.75.2.905, 1978PNAS...75..905E
,

Light and chemical production

(File:Firefly composite.jpg|thumb|left|Firefly (species unknown) captured in eastern Canada – the top picture is taken with a flash, the bottom with only the self-emitted light)File:GluehwuermchenImWald.jpg|thumb|right|Fireflies in the woods near NurembergNuremberg{{further|Bioluminescence}}Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly's lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP, and oxygen to produce light. Gene coding for these substances has been inserted into many different organisms (see Luciferase – Applications). The genetics of firefly bioluminescence, focusing on luciferase, has been reviewed by John Day.BOOK, Day, John, Beetle bioluminescence: a genetic and enzymatic research review, 2009, Research Signpost: Kerala, Meyer-Rochow, V.B., Bioluminescence in Focus, 325–355, Firefly luciferase is used in forensics, and the enzyme has medical uses – in particular, for detecting the presence of ATP or magnesium.All fireflies glow as larvae. In lampyrid larvae, bioluminescence serves a function that is different from that served in adults. It appears to be a warning signal to predators, since many firefly larvae contain chemicals that are distasteful or toxic.JOURNAL, Lewis, Sara M., Cratsley, Christopher K., January 2008, Flash Signal Evolution, Mate Choice, and Predation in Fireflies, Annual Review of Entomology, 53, 1, 293–321, 10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093346, 17877452, 0066-4170, JOURNAL, Branham, Marc A., Wenzel, John W., December 2001, The Evolution of Bioluminescence in Cantharoids (Coleoptera: Elateroidea), The Florida Entomologist, 84, 4, 565, 10.2307/3496389, 0015-4040, 3496389,weblink Photic emission in the adult beetle was originally thought to be used for similar warning purposes, but it is now understood that its primary purpose is in mate selection. It has been shown that early larval bioluminescence was adopted in adult fireflies, and was repeatedly gained and lost before becoming fixed and retained as a mechanism of sexual communication in many species.JOURNAL, Martin, Gavin J., Branham, Marc A., Whiting, Michael F., Bybee, Seth M., February 2017, Total evidence phylogeny and the evolution of adult bioluminescence in fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 107, 564–575, 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.12.017, 27998815, 1055-7903, Adult lampyrids have a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships: steady glows, flashing, and the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems.JOURNAL
, Stanger-Hall, K.F.
, Lloyd, J.E.
, Hillis, D.M.
, Phylogeny of North American fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae): implications for the evolution of light signals
, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 45, 1, 33–49, 10.1016/j.ympev.2007.05.013
, 2007, 17644427, Chemical signals, or pheromones, are the ancestral form of sexual communication; this pre-dates the evolution of flash signaling in the lineage, and is retained today in diurnally-active species.JOURNAL, Branham, M, February 2003, The origin of photic behavior and the evolution of sexual communication in fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), Cladistics, 19, 1, 1–22, 10.1016/s0748-3007(02)00131-7, 0748-3007, Signals, whether photic or chemical, allow fireflies to identify mates of their own species. Flash signaling characteristics include differences in duration, timing, color, and repetition, and vary interspecifically and geographically.JOURNAL, Stanger-Hall, Kathrin F., Lloyd, James E., March 2015, Flash signal evolution inPhotinusfireflies: Character displacement and signal exploitation in a visual communication system, Evolution, 69, 3, 666–682, 10.1111/evo.12606, 25627920, 0014-3820, When flash signals are not sufficiently distinguished between species in a population, sexual selection encourages divergence of signaling patterns.
Some species, especially lightning bugs of the genera Photinus, Photuris, and Pyractomena, are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. In general, females of the genus Photinus do not fly, but do give a flash response to males of their own species.(File:Leuchtkäfer - Firefly.JPG|thumb|right|Firefly female)(File:Fireflies, Georgia, US.jpg|thumb|right|Fireflies in Georgia, U.S.)Tropical fireflies, in particular, in Southeast Asia, routinely synchronise their flashes among large groups. This phenomenon is explained as phase synchronizationBOOK, Murray, James D., James D. Murray, Mathematical Biology, Springer, 2002, I. An Introduction, 295–299, 3rd,weblink 978-0-387-95223-9, and spontaneous order. At night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles, fireflies synchronize their light emissions precisely. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude. In the Philippines, thousands of fireflies can be seen all year-round in the town of Donsol (called aninipot or totonbalagon in Bicol). In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurs annually near Elkmont, Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains during the first weeks of June.Synchronous Fireflies – Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Nps.gov (3 June 2013). Retrieved on 22 June 2013. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to this phenomenon.Cross, Robert (23 May 2004) weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20050318055636weblink">Tree huggin'. Chicago Tribune.Female Photuris fireflies are known for mimicking the photic signaling patterns of other fireflies for the sole purpose of predation; they often prey upon smaller Photinus fireflies. Target males are attracted to what appears to be a suitable mate, and are then eaten. For this reason, Photuris species are sometimes referred to as "femme fatale fireflies".Many fireflies do not produce light. Usually these species are diurnal, or day-flying, such as those in the genus Ellychnia. A few diurnal fireflies that inhabit primarily shadowy places, such as beneath tall plants or trees, are luminescent. One such genus is Lucidota.Non-bioluminescent fireflies use pheromones to signal mates. This is supported by the fact that some basal groups do not show bioluminescence and use chemical signaling, instead. Phosphaenus hemipterus has photic organs, yet is a diurnal firefly and displays large antennae and small eyes. These traits strongly suggest pheromones are used for sexual selection, while photic organs are used for warning signals. In controlled experiments, males coming from downwind arrived at females first, indicating males travel upwind along a pheromone plume. Males were also found to be able to find females without the use of visual cues, when the sides of test Petri dishes were covered with black tape. This and the facts that females do not light up at night and males are diurnal point to the conclusion that sexual communication in P. hemipterus is based entirely on pheromones.JOURNAL
, De Cock, R.
, Matthysen, E.
, Sexual communication by pheromones in a firefly, Phosphaenus hemipterus (Coleoptera: Lampyridae)
, 10.1016/j.anbehav.2005.01.011, 2005
, Animal Behaviour
, 70
, 4
, 807–818,

Systematics

File:Cyphonocerus ruficollis 2552543412 crop.png|thumb|left|Cyphonocerus ruficollis, a weakly glowing member of the CyphonocerinaeCyphonocerinaeFirefly systematics, as with many insects, are in a constant state of flux, as new species continue to be discovered. The five subfamilies listed above are the most commonly accepted ones, though others, such as the Amydetinae and Psilocladinae, have been proposed. This was mainly done in an attempt to revise the Lampyrinae, which bit by bit had become something of a "wastebin taxon" to hold incertae sedis species and genera of fireflies. Other changes have been proposed, such as merging the Ototretinae into the Luciolinae, but the arrangement used here appears to be the most frequently seen and stable layout for the time being. Though most groups appear to be monophyletic, some (e.g., the tribe Photinini) are perhaps better divided.Two groups of subfamilies seem to exist: one containing many American and some Eurasian species in the Lampyrinae and Photurinae; and one, predominantly Asian, made up from the other subfamilies. While the subfamilies as understood here are, in general, monophyletic, a few genera still need to be moved for the subfamilies to accurately represent the evolutionary relationships among the fireflies.The Rhagophthalmidae are a glow-worm-like lineage of Elateroidea. They have in the recent past usually been considered a distinct family, but whether this is correct is still disputed. Indeed, they might be the only close relative of the puzzling firefly genus Pterotus, which sometimes is placed in a monotypic subfamily.The genus Phausis, usually placed in the tribe Photinini of the Lampyrinae, might represent another rather distinct lineage instead.

Conservation

Firefly populations are declining worldwide, for a variety of reasons.Firefly.org Fireflies, like many other organisms, are directly affected by land-use change (e.g. loss of habitat area and connectivity), which is identified as the main driver of biodiversity changes in terrestrial ecosystems.JOURNAL, Sala, Osvaldo E., Chapin, F. Stuart, Iii, Armesto, Juan J., Berlow, Eric, Bloomfield, Janine, Dirzo, Rodolfo, Huber-Sanwald, Elisabeth, Huenneke, Laura F., 2000-03-10, Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100, Science, 287, 5459, 1770–1774, 10.1126/science.287.5459.1770, 0036-8075, 10710299, Pesticides and weed-killers have also been indicated as a likely cause of firefly decline.See "How You Can Help", FireFly.org, citing (1) "Understanding Halofenozide (Mach 2) and Imidacloprid (Merit) Soil Insecticides," by Daniel A Potter. International SportsTurf Institute, Inc., Turfax, Vol. 6 No. 1 (Jan-Feb 1998) and (2) "Relative Toxicities of Chemicals to the Earthworm Eisenia foetida," by Brian L. Roberts and H. Wyman Dorough. Article first published online: 20 Oct 2009. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan. 1984), pp. 67–78.Finally, since fireflies depend on their own light to reproduce JOURNAL, Lloyd, James E., Wing, Steven R., Hongtrakul, Tawatchai, Ecology, Flashes, and Behavior of Congregating Thai Fireflies, Biotropica, 21, 4, 10.2307/2388290, 373, 2388290, 1989, they are also very sensitive to environmental levels of light and consequently to light pollution.JOURNAL, Viviani, Vadim Ravara, Rocha, Mayra Yamazaki, Hagen, Oskar, June 2010, Fauna de besouros bioluminescentes (Coleoptera: Elateroidea: Lampyridae; Phengodidae, Elateridae) nos municípios de Campinas, Sorocaba-Votorantim e Rio Claro-Limeira (SP, Brasil): biodiversidade e influência da urbanização, Biota Neotropica, 10, 2, 103–116, 10.1590/s1676-06032010000200013, 1676-0603, Multiple recent studies investigate deeply the effects of artificial night lighting on fireflies.JOURNAL, Firebaugh, Ariel, Haynes, Kyle J., 2016-12-01, Experimental tests of light-pollution impacts on nocturnal insect courtship and dispersal, Oecologia, 182, 4, 1203–1211, 10.1007/s00442-016-3723-1, 27646716, 0029-8549, 2016Oecol.182.1203F, JOURNAL, Owens, Avalon Celeste Stevahn, Meyer-Rochow, Victor Benno, Yang, En-Cheng, 2018-02-07, Short- and mid-wavelength artificial light influences the flash signals of Aquatica ficta fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), PLOS ONE, 13, 2, e0191576, 10.1371/journal.pone.0191576, 29415023, 5802884, 1932-6203, 2018PLoSO..1391576O, Fireflies are charismatic (which is a rare quality amongst insects) and are easily spotted by non-experts, providing thus good flagship species to attract public attention; good investigation models for the effects of light on nocturnal wildlife; and finally, due to their sensibility and rapid response to environmental changes, good bioindicators for artificial night lighting.

References

{{Reflist}}

Further reading

  • JOURNAL, Branham, M. A., J. W., Wenzel, 2003, The origin of photic behavior and the evolution of sexual communication in fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), Cladistics (journal), Cladistics, 19, 1, 1–22, 10.1111/j.1096-0031.2003.tb00404.x,
  • JOURNAL, Lewis, S. M., C. K., Cratsley, 2008, Flash signal evolution, mate choice, and predation in fireflies, Annual Review of Entomology, 53, 293–321, 10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093346, 17877452,
  • PAPER, Stous, Hollend, 1997, A review of predation in Photuris, and its effects on the evolution of flash signaling in other New World fireflies,weblink
  • Faust, Lynn Frierson (2017). "Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs"
  • "Understanding Halofenozide (Mach 2) and Imidacloprid (Merit) Soil Insecticides," by Daniel A Potter. International SportsTurf Institute, Inc., Turfax, Vol. 6 No. 1 (Jan-Feb 1998)
  • "Relative Toxicities of Chemicals to the Earthworm Eisenia foetida," by Brian L. Roberts and H. Wyman Dorough. Article first published online: 20 Oct 2009. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan. 1984), pp. 67–78.


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