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Bestari Jaya, Malaysia

Flashing Fireflies of Kampung Kuantan

Malaysian fireflies create a dazzling display as thousands light up in unison. 

A small number of firely species perform an astonishing collective trick: They light up as one. Tens of thousands of fireflies will blink in perfect unison for minutes, sometimes hours, at a time. Known as “sychronicity,” it is a somewhat mysterious phenomenon.

Even though each firefly flashes according to its own natural rhythm, it also receives feedback from flashing lights nearby. This feedback loop, an example of the mathematical concept known as coupled oscillation, eventually leads to a humongous mass of simultaneously blinking fireflies.

One of the best places in the world to see this magnificent display is in Kampung Kuantan, Malaysia. Sadly, over the last ten years the beetle has been disappearing from the region due to poorly managed tourism and river pollution. All is not lost, however. Thriving colonies can still be found in the Bagan Krian mangrove tracts, the Tanjung Piai mangrove regions, and the Cherating and Kemaman shorelines, among other places.

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