Glowworm | Pilzmücke

23 images Created 12 Feb 2013

Bioluminescent Glow Worms (Arachnocampa luminosa), New Zealand
This cave near Te Kuiti, located on the North Island of New Zealand, is among several caves in the Waitomo area that are famous for their naturally illuminated ceilings. The impression of an open starlit sky within the damp confinement is caused by thousands of so called glow worms: larvae of fungus gnats of the species Arachnocampa luminosa that live overhead - not to be confused with fire flies, that are the adult stages of beetles.

Fungus gnats are a rather large family (approx. 3000 species worldwide) within the Order Diptera (flies and mosquitos). Fungus gnats spend most of their entire life span of up to 12 months in their larval stage. Their ability to produce cold light by means of an internal chemical reaction (bioluminescence) enables the larvae to attract prey, mostly flying insects. To catch these insects the glow worm not only spins a hammock-like tube system at the ceiling, but it also sends down up to 60 hanging threads that are connected to the larva’s nest. The threads are covered with droplets of sticky mucus and are strong enough to hold e.g. mosquitos, moths, spiders etc. in spite of the prey’s vigorous attempts to free itself. These vibrations help the larva to locate the very same snare, which it pulls in by eating the silk thread. The prey is sucked out or eaten whole. Food intake only takes place during this larval stage: after the pupal stage (1 to 2 weeks) the adult mouth less fungus gnat hatches to live only a few days to mate and lay eggs.
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