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Glow-in-the-Dark Sea Creatures


Today's Snack: Make a pan of Jell-O Jigglers in your favorite color. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Put a couple on your plate and pretend they are glow-in-the-dark sea creatures. Then eat them, with a couple of whole strawberries and a glass of juice.






Non-toxic glow-in-the-dark paints and small paintbrush

(fabric paints work well and squeeze out of the bottle,

so you won't need a paintbrush and won't need clean-up)


Container of water and paper towels for clean-up if using a brush


Piece of white cardstock, pencil and scissors


Book with pictures of deep-sea creatures,

or see photos on the left-hand side of


This activity is more fun in a group, so that each student has a creature



Did you know there are living creatures deep in the dark, dark ocean that are like living flashlights? They are like underwater lightning bugs, putting out light from their own bodies to find food, find a mate, or protect themselves.



Some of these glow-in-the-dark creatures include the firefly squid (see it on the right, above, spitting out some glow-in-the-dark liquid to try to keep the bigger fish from eating it), the flashlight fish, the railroad worm, the dragonfish, comb jellyfish, and many more. One of the weirdest is the angler fish, which has a special fin that grows out in front of its snout with a tiny light on the end of it. The angler fish uses this body part like a mini fishing rod. Other fish think the blob of light is something to eat, and instead, the angler fish eats THEM!


The ocean is divided into three layers of light zones: the photic (FOE-tick) zone at the top (from the surface to about 220 yards down, or the lengths of two football fields), the twilight zone (between 220 to 1,100 yards down, about one-fifth of a mile), and the aphotic zone, also called "the midnight zone" (as deep as seven miles down). That last zone receives no light at all from the sun or the moon because it's so deep. The creatures that live there have only the light that they emit from their own bodies.


This phenomenon is known as "bioluminescence." (BYE-oh-loom-in-ESS-ense). The "bio" means "life" and whenever you see "lum-" as part of a word, you know it has something to do with light. Where does the light come from? From natural chemicals ("KEM-ick-ulls").


Some of these animals have special body parts that use their special body chemicals to create the light. How? Through a chemical reaction. It's the same thing that makes those glow-sticks start to light up that you can get at the circus or around the Fourth of July.


Others have to eat other glow-in-the-dark creatures to get the chemicals. A few can't make light on their own, but let tiny light-up bacteria grow on their bodies like a coat in order to glow and glimmer down deep.


These animals can work like a flashlight or a traffic stoplight, putting out light in certain patterns that mean different things to other sea creatures. "Look out!" or "Hi!" are examples of what their light patterns mean.


Now for some fun:


1.      Study bioluminescent creatures in a book or website. Then use a pencil to lightly sketch one on a piece of cardstock. You can invent your own shapes or try to draw ones that exist.


2.      Paint your creatures with glow-in-the-dark paint. If you are using a squeeze bottle of fabric paint, just squeeze out lines and squiggles; if you are using regular paint with a paintbrush, you can make larger areas with a brush. Let dry.


3.      Cut your creatures out.


4.      Ask a few friends to each hold a bioluminescent creature while you all go into a pitch-black basement room or a closet. Decide in advance what different light patterns will mean. Now "flash" to each other, showing your creatures off and on, like a lightning bug, and make up different patterns for different messages: "Look out!" for three flashes, for example, or "Hi!" for one short flash, or "Don't eat me!" for five.



By Susan Darst Williams Animals 13 2010

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