A glowing worm discovered in the Amazon Rainforest appears to be making use of its ability to light up in the dark to lure its potential prey.
Nature photographer Jeff Cremer first encountered this mysterious worm several years ago while taking a nighttime walk near a camp in the Peruvian rainforest.
What he initially saw as a number of little green glowing dots on an exposed earth turned out to be the glowing heads of a mysterious worm measuring about 0.5 inches. While he managed to take some photos, Cremer was not able to identify what the worm was.
Cremer eventually learned about the sub-Reddit "whatsthisbug," which serves as an online venue for entomologists and wildlife enthusiasts to identify insects together, and decided to post the photos of the unidentified bioluminescent worm.
In October, Cremer, along with entomologists Aaron Pomerantz, Mike Bentley and Geoff Gallice from the University of Florida, who contacted him after he posted the photos on the online forum, set out to look for the worm again.
The small team found that the worms were the larvae of a yet unknown species of click beetle, which belongs to the family Elateridae and uses a clicking motion to evade predators. The adults thrive on flowers and nectar, but their larvae are possibly predatory.
Pomerantz said that the larvae use luciferin to glow. The chemical is also present in many species of firefly, which are also known for their bioluminescence.
The entomologist also said that the larvae are capable of controlling when they would glow; they stop glowing when they are disturbed or removed from their holes in the soil.
Tests conducted by the team confirmed that the larvae are indeed using their natural light to lure their prey.
"Mike helped confirm our predator hypothesis by presenting the larvae with a stick and then an ant. Sure enough they were voracious, clamping their mandibles shut and dragging their prey into the tunnels ... never to be seen again," Pomerantz wrote.
With the predatory nature of these worms and the fact that they live underground and burst from the soil, Pomerantz wrote that they are also reminded of the 1990 movie Tremors, which was about giant worm-like killing creatures that live underground -- only that this glowing worm is a lot smaller.
The team is not yet certain if it has discovered a new species or a yet unidentified subspecies of beetle larvae, but they are consulting with experts in Brazil in order to find out.