Over ten years ago, I saw a BBC Blue Planet Episode, Seas of Life: The Deep. I was mesmerized by the world that exists miles below sea level. As a result of my studio practice creating light installations, I found myself inspired by bioluminescent fish. I was fascinated by copepods, siphonophorae, comb jellies, and noctiluca scintillans (sea sparkle), to name just a few. They exist in a different gravity and float through space. They release luciferins – light-emitting heterocyclic compounds – as a way to survive. Light enables them to attract prey, scare predators or to mate. They create fields of color, momentary flashes of light and light clouds. Bioluminescence is so important to marine life, that it has evolved 40-50 separate times throughout evolutionary history.
Edith Widder has a great TED talk about bioluminescence, giving further details behind the BBC episode.