Predatory Glow Worms Found In Peruvian Amazon

Jeff Cremer is a wildlife photographer who works at the Tambopata Research Center in the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. That’s where the strange “silkhenge” tower was found last year, which turned out to be an egg sac holding a single baby spider of an unknown species. This is the story of another weird wildlife find, this time at the the Refugio Amazonas Lodge. From the center’s blog:     

A couple of years ago, wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer stumbled upon something very special during a night hike in the rainforest of Tambopata, Peru. While passing a bend on the trail, he noticed several glowing green dots embedded within a dirt wall. Curious and seeking more information, Jeff snapped some pictures and posted them to Reddit in a section where site users help to answer questions and identify species. It turns out, these glowing dots were likely due to some kind of insect larvae, possibly a beetle, but the rest of the story remained a mystery. What exactly was this strange species and why were they glowing in the middle the Amazon rainforest in a dirt wall? This past October, Jeff was accompanied by entomologist Aaron Pomerantz and his colleagues Mike Bentley and Geoff Gallice, who are graduate students at the University of Florida. Together, they hoped to “shed some light” on this glowing mystery.

At night, the larvae glowed bright green, a process called bioluminescence. It is thought that this is to attract prey, because the larvae are definitely predatory, but not fast enough to chase insects. Any insect curious enough to approach the green glow is doomed to become a meal!

Aaron Pomerantz, and other entomologists who’ve seen the worms or the pictures, believe the glow worm is a larvae of the family Elateridae, which are click beetles. They have not yet identified the exact species, and the possibility exists that it may be a newly-found species of click beetle. The Amazon is full of wildlife mysteries.

Entomologist Aaron Pomerantz explains what they know so far about the glow worm in this video:


(YouTube link)


Photography by Jeff Cremer. Follow the research at Tambopata by reading Rainforest Expeditions.

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