Bioluminescence in holopelagic annelids, Tomopteris


Researchers: Jérôme Mallefet (principal investigator)
External collaborators:
- Dr. Patrick Flammang & Dr. Jérôme Delroisse (UMons, Belgium)
- Prof. Lorents Dag Akness (Bergen Univ., Norway)
- Dr. Conrad Helm (Georg-August Univ. Göttingen, Germany)


The Tomopteridae annelid family, like a large number of planktonic species, are completely transparent. What can be the interest for these organisms to produce a visible light ? Current knowledge of this bioluminescence is based only on assumptions and anecdotal observations. However, many authors refer to these organisms having the distinction of emitting a yellow light. Why emit in a low diffusible spectral range in seawater and hardly perceptible by the majority of visual systems used in this environment ? Some authors have hypothesized an intraspecific recognition function. It is possible that light signals provide a function of assisting reproduction in the sense of a communication code between individuals of opposite sexes. A research program has been conducted since October 2010 on the species Tomopteris helgolandica Greeff 1879. This work constitutes an original approach to the description and understanding of the use of bioluminescence by transparent organisms living in a pelagic environment.