In Plain English: Alec Motten

Alec Motten is excited about bioluminescence—live creatures that glow in the dark.  The lab for Organismal Diversity gives him an excuse to gather together as many of them as possible:  fireflies, sea pansies, fungi, parchment tube worms, bacteria, single-cell plankton, comb jellyfish, an embarras de richesse.  There are representatives of every kingdom except plants.  He also throws in some merely fluorescent things which require UV light to glow, like chlorophyll.

Mysteries abound when it comes to why these creatures glow, as the mechanisms all evolved separately.  Firefly adults flash to attract mates (and some females to lure males of other species to become dinner), but then why does the larva glow?  Do the marine bacteria light up like a neon Diner sign, hoping the customers will carry them to new territories?  The worms bury themselves in the muddy tidal bottom; since they can’t run, perhaps they hope to frighten predators by suddenly lighting up when disturbed.  And the fungi?  They’re just weird.

Time cannot stale nor custom wither Nature’s infinite variety.  And Alec can’t get enough of it.