Unusual Labmates: Raising Japanese Aquatic Fireflies at Whitehead Institute


[music playing] Japanese aquatic fireflies aren’t the easiest
animals to raise in the lab. Tim Fallon, a PhD student in Jing-Ke Weng’s
lab at Whitehead Institute, created a habitat that he has carefully tuned to the needs of
this species. He started off with eggs and larvae mailed
to him from Japan. The larvae live in plastic tubs, molting and
getting bigger five or six times. A water system using deionized water keeps
their environment to their liking. When they get big enough, Tim moves them to
a new habitat for metamorphosis. A mock riverbank made of moss, sand and coconut
shavings mimics their habitats in the wild. When it’s ready, a larva climbs into the moss, forms a pupa, and grows wings and light organs. The adult emerges from its pupa and lives
the rest of its life out of water. This adult firefly was Tim’s first to be born
here as an egg and life its full lifecycle in North America. Their luminescence is a greener shade than
the typical North American backyard fireflies. They stop blinking when the sun comes up — or,
in the lab, when the simulated sunrise begins with an automated light.

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