Overview

Distribution

Geographic Range

The common eastern firefly, or North American firefly, ranges throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • 2001. Firefly. Pp. 134 in World Book. Chicago: World Book Incorporated.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The common eastern firefly is, in fact, not a fly, but a type of beetle. The average adult is dark brown and 10-14 mm long. Like all insects, it has a hard exoskeleton, six jointed legs, two antennae, compound eyes, and a body divided into three parts head, thorax, and abdomen). Its head has a rounded cover outlined in yellow and accented with two orange spots. Photinus pyralis also has two pairs of wings. The first pair, the elytra, form a cover over the second pair and is dark brown with narrow yellow side margins. Only males use the second pair for flying; females usually have short wings, and do not fly. The last segment of the abdomen is the section that lights up, flashing bright yellow-green.

Common eastern firefly larvae are characterized by six legs, a pair of antennae, and a flattened segmented abdomen. Upon emerging from the egg they are generally about 1.6 mm in length. By the end of its larval stage it will have grown to about 10.3 mm. Firefly larvae are often referred to as "glow worms" because, like the adults, they emit a glow of light.

Range length: 10 to 14 mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently

  • Grzimek, D. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.
  • Arnett, R. 1985. American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of North America and Mexico. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.
  • Tweit, S. 1999. Dance of the Fireflies. Audubon, 101, Issue 4: 16,28-31.
  • 1999. "Firefly or Lightning Bug: Photinus pyralis" (On-line). Accessed April 12, 2001 at http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/insects/beetles/Fireflyprintout.html.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Larvae of the common eastern firefly most often inhabit moist places such as on the ground, under bark, and near streams. Adult fireflies can be found from late spring to early fall in meadows, woodland edges, and near streams.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

  • Milne, L., M. Milne. 1980. The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Chanticleir Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Both adult and larval Phorinua pyralis are carnivorous. They feed on other insects (including other fireflies), earthworms, and snails. When feeding, they inject poison to immobilize and liquefy their prey. This allows the fireflies or larvae to suck up their meal.

Animal Foods: insects; mollusks; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Molluscivore , Vermivore)

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Photinus pyralis in Illinois

Photinus pyralis Linnaeus: Lampyridae, Coleoptera
(observations are from Robertson)

Apiaceae: Pastinaca sativa sn (Rb), Sium suave sn (Rb); Asclepiadaceae: Asclepias syriaca [plpr sn] (Rb); Liliaceae: Melanthium virginicum sn (Rb)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

An interesting predator of Photinus pyralis is the female Photuris pyralis. This firefly mimics the signal of the female Photinus pyralis and lures male Photinus pyralis that are expecting to mate. However, when the male common eastern firefly reaches this mimicking species, he quickly becomes the female predator's meal.

Known Predators:

  • Photuris pyralis

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Communication Channels: visual

Other Communication Modes: photic/bioluminescent

Perception Channels: visual

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Cycle

Development

Firefly eggs, which also emit a slight glow, hatch after four weeks into flightless larvae, the longest stage of the firefly life cycle. Larvae live one to two years and can be seen glowing on damp ground and near streams. After passing through the larval stage, the developing firefly moves into chambers in the moist soil and pupates. While pupating, it undergoes metamorphosis, emerging from the pupa as an adult.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

  • Pesson, P. 1959. The World of Insects. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Adult Photinus pyralis live 5 to 30 days.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
5 to 30 days.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Fireflies use specific flashing signals to find a mate. Females wait on the ground for passing males to flash their signal, and then answer with their own specific signal. It is this communication that allows the male to find a female with whom he mates.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Fireflies use specific flashing signals to find a mate. Females wait on the ground for passing males to flash their signal, and then answer with their own specific signal. It is this communication that allows the male to find a female with whom he mates. This dating game occurs in summer and early fall, and the female generally lays about 500 eggs on damp soil during this time of year.

Average eggs per season: 500.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

  • 2001. Firefly. Pp. 134 in World Book. Chicago: World Book Incorporated.
  • Milne, L., M. Milne. 1980. The Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Chanticleir Press.
  • Pesson, P. 1959. The World of Insects. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
  • 1999. "Firefly or Lightning Bug: Photinus pyralis" (On-line). Accessed April 12, 2001 at http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/insects/beetles/Fireflyprintout.html.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Light generated chemically: firefly
 

Fireflies inhale oxygen and exhale light with help from an enzyme.

   
  "In a firefly bioluminescence reaction, an enzyme known as a luciferase uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to activate a molecule called a luciferin. The product of this reaction combines with molecular oxygen to produce an excited-state oxyluciferin species. When oxyluciferin relaxes back to its ground state, energy is released in the form of light…Jellyfish-like animals called ctenophores—can do without [ATP to jump-start bioluminescence]. Instead, they use a luciferin of intrinsically higher energy and prepackage it with oxygen in an enzyme known as a photoprotein. Calcium activates the reaction by changing the shape of the photoprotein, which releases the invested energy in the form of light." (Pepling 2006:36)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Pepling, Rachel Sheremeta. 2006. All That Glows: Bioluminescence provides practical applications while still remaining a mystery. Chemical & Engineering News. 84(14): 36-38.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© The Biomimicry Institute

Source: AskNature

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Photinus pyralis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GATATTGGAACATTATATTTCATCTTTGGGGCATGAGCAGGAATACTAGGAACTTCATTC---AGATTATTAATTCGCGCAGAATTAGGAAATCCGGGATCCTTAATTGGGAAT---GATCATATTTTTAATGTAATTGTTACTAGACACGCCTTCATTATAATTTTTTTTATAGTAATGCCTATCATAATTGGGGGCTTCGGGAATTGGTTAGTTCCCTTAATA---CTCGGGGCTCCTGATATAGCTTTTCCTCGAATAAACAATATAAGATTTTGATTATTACCTCCATCCCTATCTCTCTTAATTATAAGAAGAATAATTGAAAGAGGGGCAGGAACTGGCTGAACTGTCTACCCTCCCCTGTCAGCTAATATTGCTCACAGAGGTCCTTCAGTAGATTTA---GCAATTTTTAGACTTCATCTTGCTGGGGTATCCTCAATTCTAGGTGCAGTAAACTTTATTTCAACTATTATTAATATACGGCCAAATAGAATAATATTAGATCGAAATACCCTTATTTGTTTGAGCGAGTTCTTACCGCGAATTCTTTTATTATTATCATTACCCGTATTAGCAGGT---GCTATTACTATACTCTTAACAGATCGAAAATTT------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A
-- end --

Download FASTA File

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Photinus pyralis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

This species does not require any special status.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no known negative economic importance for humans.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The chemical utilized by the common eastern firefly for bioluminescence is a complex organic compound, luciferase. Fireflies have recently been harvested by the biochemical industry for this important compound. Researchers discovered a technique to splice the gene containing luciferase into the DNA of other plants and animals. They use this in tracing the inheritance of a particular disease-resistant gene by splicing the bioluminescence gene into the disease-resistant gene in a parent plant or animal. The disease-resistant gene can then be traced in the offspring, because if it is inherited, it will glow.

Positive Impacts: source of medicine or drug

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Photinus pyralis

Photinus pyralis, known by the common names common eastern firefly[2] and big dipper firefly,[3] is the most common species of firefly in North America.[4] P. pyralis is a flying and light producing beetle with a light organ on the ventral side of its abdomen. This organism is sometimes incorrectly classified as Photuris pyralis, which likely results from mistaking the similar sounding genus Photuris. The Photuris female may also lure a Photinus pyralis to be eaten to obtain spider-repellent steroids which Cornell researchers named "lucibufagins" in 1997.[5] In males the light organ covers the entire ventral surface of the three most posterior segments and in females it only covers a portion of the third posterior segment.[6] These fireflies are most noticeable around twilight, in the early part of the evening and hover close to the ground.[7] The species' common name refers to the characteristic flight of the male, which flies in a J-shaped trajectory, lighting on the upswing.[8] During flight, the J-shaped flight pattern is used in combination with patrolling flash patterns while seeking a mate.[9] Their flashes are stimulated by light conditions, not by rhythmic impulses as originally thought [7]

Light production[edit]

Males of Photinus pyralis locate females by a series of light flashes, to which females respond with a coded delay flash. The light organ of P. pryalis is composed of two layers; a layer of refractile cells on the dorsal side and a photic layer with light producing cells on the ventral side.[10] The light organ (specifically the photogenic layer) is supplied with numerous tracheal branches, which are thought to provide the required oxygen for light production.[10] The light producing enzyme is luciferase, and is found within cells of the lantern.[11] Luciferases require oxygen, luciferin and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to catalyze a chemical reaction that produces bioluminescence in these insects.[12] It has been shown that the glow is not controlled by the tracheal end cells (which were thought to contain valves) nor by central nerve impulses through studies involving low oxygen conditions.[13] Pupae of these beetles have different light organs than the adult. They do not have the characteristic tracheal end cells of the flashing adults, and whereas the adults emit bright flashes, pupae emit low intensity glowing.[13]

Defense[edit]

Beetles from the family Lampyridae have been known to use certain defenses such as unpleasant odor and the excretion of a sticky substance to avoid predation.[14] Excretion of unpleasant fluids from the areas along the elytra and pronotum is the result of tactile stimulation and has been referred to as reflexive bleeding.[15] This reflex bleeding is a defensive function of P.pyralis, as it can cause certain predators to become entangled in the sticky substance (such as ants) or cause revulsion in others upon predation.[15] The excretion contains lucibufagins, steroids found in P. pyralis that render them distasteful to certain bird predators.[16] Whereas adult flashing is used in mate signaling, pupae glow is thought to be an aposematic display for nocturnal predators.[17]

Mating[edit]

Males are the first to start the series of patrolling flashes needed to locate and mate with a female. Males will actively fly while flashing, whereas females are sedentary.[18] They will flash every 6 seconds and wait for a responding flash from the female, which comes after a 1-2 second delay [9] It has been shown that females only respond to their conspecific males; identifying them by the color of their yellow bioluminescent flash, in combination with the temporal patterning, duration and intensity of the male flash.[19] Females will twist their abdomen towards the males flash, presenting their own flash toward the male. Males can be observed flying in a nearly vertical orientation; their antennae held forward and stiff while their legs are held toward the body during patrolling.[9] They also show an obvious gaze shift towards the last female flash, and continue towards it until the female firefly flashes again.[9] The flashes continue until the male reaches the female. Males congregate in large masses and it is most likely that more than one will find the same female; in this case male P. pyralis display aggression towards one another while not in flight.[20] During the “aggression” stage, males with smaller elytra and smaller lanterns are favored; whereas during the signaling phase, males with longer elytra and bigger lanterns are favoured.[20] Males with larger lanterns are favored in signaling phases of courtship because their broadcasting flashes can be seen by females who are further away, it is also suggested that due to their longer elytra these males may also have an advantage of finding the females faster.[21] Adult Photinus fireflies do not feed as adults [18] and therefore males are better able to attract females by offering nuptial food gifts, in the form of spermatophores which females can use to provide nutrients to their eggs.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Photinus pyralis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ [1] Animal Pictures Archive
  3. ^ [2] Firefly Companion and Letter Winter 1993-1994
  4. ^ [3] State Symbols USA: Tennessee State Insect
  5. ^ By firefly light, Cornell biologists reveal mimicry and murder in the night
  6. ^ Mast, S.O. 1912. Behaviour of fire-flies (Photinus pyralis) with special references to the problem of orientation. 256-272
  7. ^ a b Rau, P. 1932. Rhythmic periodicity and synchronous flashing in the firefly, Photinus pyralis, with notes on Photurus pennsylvacicus. Ecological Society of America, 13:7-11
  8. ^ Maloney, Brenna; Smallwood, James (July 10, 2009). "How These Beetles Create Light". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  9. ^ a b c d Case, J.F. 2004. Flight studies on photic communication by the firefly Photinus pyralis. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 44:250-258
  10. ^ a b Beams, H.W. and Anderson, E. 1955. Light and electron microscope studies on the light organ of the firefly (Photinus pyralis). The Biological Bulletin, 375-393
  11. ^ Keller, G.A., Gould, S., Deluca, M. and Subramani, S. 1987. Firefly luciferase is targeted to peroxisomes in mammalian cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 84:3264-3268
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ a b Hastings, J.W. and Buck, J. 1965. The firefly pseudoflash in relation to photogenic control. The Biological Bulletin, 101-113
  14. ^ Williams F.X. 1917. Notes on the life-history of some North American Lampryridae. Journal of the New York Entomology Society, 25:11-33
  15. ^ a b Blum, M. and Sannasi, A. 1973. Reflex bleeding in the lampyrid Photinus pyralis: defensive function. Journal of Insect Physiology, 20:451-660
  16. ^ Meinwald, J., Wiemer, D.F. and Eisner, T. 1979. Lucibufagins. 2. Esters of 12-Oxo-2p,5p, 1 1 a-trihydroxybufalin, the major defensive steroids of the Firefly Photinus pyralis (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Journal of the American Chemical Society, 11:3055-3060.
  17. ^ Underwood, T.J., Tallamy, D.W. and Pesek, J.D. 1997. Bioluminescebce in firefly larvae: a test of the aposematic display hypothesis (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Journal of Insect Behaviour, 10:365-370
  18. ^ a b Lloyd, J.E. 1966. Studies on the flash communication system in Photinus fireflies. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  19. ^ Lall, A.B and Worthy, K.M. 2000. Action spectra of the female’s response in the firefly Photinus pyralis (Coleptera: Lampyridae): evidence for an achromatic detection of the bioluminescent optical signal. Journal of Insect Physiology, 46:965-968
  20. ^ a b Vencl, F.V. 2004. Allometry and proximate mechanisms of sexual selection in Photinus fireflies, and some other beetles. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 44:242-249
  21. ^ Vencl, F.V. and Carlson, D. 1998. Proximate mechanisms of sexual selection in the firefly Photinus pryalis (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Journal of Insect behaviour, 11:191-207
  22. ^ Lewis, S.M., Cratsley, C.K. and Demary, K. 2004. Mate recognition and choice in Photinus fireflies. Annales Zoologici Fennici. 41:809-821
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!