Glowing recommendations

Spectacular light displays created by glowworms in Australian caves have become major drawcards for domestic and international tourism. National Parks and Wildlife authorities face the dual challenge of providing facilities for visitors viewing the glowworms while ensuring that populations of these iconic fungus gnats remain healthy and vibrant.

Our researchers have been studying the glowworms’ unusual habit of using bioluminescence to attract prey into their webs. By focusing on how the light organ itself works, and how the animals regulate their light production, we discovered that cave-adapted species synchronise their glowing by seeing each other's glowing cycles and adjusting their own internal biological clocks.

Bright light from hand-held torches can cause glowworms to dim their own light because they interpret it as daylight. Previous physiological studies have shown that glowworms don't “see” red light, so to minimise any impact on glowworm behaviour, LED torches are now routinely used at many tourist sites.

Additional environmental studies conducted by School researchers led to access management near the glowworm colony at Natural Bridge in South East Queensland to minimise human impacts on the prey species.

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Related links

Glowing reference from Sir David Attenborough