Genesis 1:24
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”

Staying with some family members in Kentucky, I was delighted one dark evening to see little flashes of light in the air, low over the garden lawn. Although I was too far away to see the insects concerned, these must have been fireflies. Fireflies are not actually flies – they are beetles. Their light-producing organs are in their abdomens. Most species use these bioluminescent displays for courtship.

The bioluminescence is caused by a type of luciferin molecule, commonly called firefly luciferin. The name has nothing to do with evil! It comes from the Latin word for light. Firefly luciferin reacts with oxygen, and the reaction is catalyzed by an enzyme, luciferase, as well as the presence of magnesium ions and adenosine triphosphate – the energy-giving molecule ATP. Luciferin first forms another highly tensed molecule called a dioxetane, which releases CO2 to form a ketone. The ketone is in a highly excited electronic state, so it “relaxes” back to normal state by releasing energy. This energy is at exactly the right frequency to be in the visible light range. The fireflies in Kentucky emitted yellow light.

If one were an evolutionist, one would have to wonder – what would have been the evolutionary advantage for the beetle to produce luciferase if there was no luciferin, or vice versa? We have a lot more work to do to investigate the chemistry of the process, but we still marvel at the wonder of God’s design for these insects.

Prayer: We marvel at the wonderful creatures that You have made, Lord. Even more, we marvel at the wonderful salvation You have wrought for Your people. Amen.

Author: Paul F. Taylor

Ref: Mitchell, E. (2015), God’s Design for Bioluminescence, < >, accessed 7/31/2020. Image: Emmanuelm at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported.

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