Each year on the western coast of Japan, nature creates a particularly unique spectacle. Just under the surface of Toyama Bay, between March and June, firefly squid gather themselves up from the depths to spawn. Their method of attracting a mate is exceptional: from their photophores—light producing organs—they emit electric blue light. For the captivated onlookers, it’s startlingly neon display of bioluminescence.
Around 80 percent of ocean-dwelling organisms emit light, according to the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). Various types of deep-sea fish, krill, jellyfish and comb jellies, marine worms and plankton are all bioluminescent. Many of these creatures reside in the so-called “twilight zone” of the ocean: the depths between 600 and 3,300 feet, where sunlight barely reaches.
Bioluminescence is created by a chemical reaction, for a variety of purposes—anything from camouflage to communication to attracting prey. Regardless of what it is used for, the other-worldly neon glow of bioluminescent life is extraordinary to behold.