It is the stuff of fairytales: larvae that flicker blue lodged between fallen branches surrounded by a cushion of their own secreted mucus – okay, perhaps it’s more Brothers Grimm than Disney.
The scientists weren’t actually on the hunt for a new species. Instead, wearing red light headlamps, they were scouring the Atlantic Forest of Brazil for bioluminescent mushrooms. The light-emitting gnat larvae, then, were quite the surprise, especially as it’s the first discovery of a blue bioluminescent species in South America.
Insects and fungi do brighten the forest night with little displays of light, but usually these glowing emissions come in one of three colors: green, yellow, or red.
"It’s the first record of blue emission from a living being on land in South America. It’s also the first report of a bioluminescent Diptera in the same location," study author Cassius Stevani, from the University of São Paulo's Institute of Chemistry, told IFLScience.