Ever wonder why some organisms flash, blink or glow?

Get ready to shed some light on these extraordinary organisms during Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence, located inside the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery. From the flickering fireflies found in backyards around the world to the alien-like deep-sea fishes and other fantastic creatures that illuminate the perpetually dark depths of the oceans, you’ll explore the biology behind these amazing creatures through interactive experiences and recreated environments.


Bioluminescence is a chemical reaction that takes place in an organism and produces detectable light. These organisms use a variety of body parts to emit light in different colors and for different purposes. Rare among organisms that live on land, the ability to glow is much more common in the ocean, where up to 90 percent of animals at depths below 700 meters are bioluminescent and where scientists continue to discover bizarre new bioluminescent species.

Throughout the exhibition, you’ll move through a series of re-created environments that feature these organisms, including a woodland floor with bioluminescent mushrooms, a meadow filled with fireflies and an immersive replica of Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico. You’ll discover the variety of ways light is used to attract a mate, lure unsuspecting prey, or defend against a predator, and learn how, where, and why scientists study this amazing natural phenomenon.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Immersive replicas of the Waitomo cave system in New Zealand and the Bloody Bay Wall in the Cayman Islands
  • Live examples of flashlight fish
  • Interactive videos with scientists that are studying bioluminescence
  • Various symphonic soundtracks composed by Tom Phillips that accompany each section
  • iPads featuring animations, photographs and in-depth exhibition information


At the entrance to the Creatures of Light exhibition, discover Organic, an immersive installation by local artist Sharon Berebichez. Using materials such as acrylic paint, fabric, foam, and resin, she creates works that are realistic, while also simultaneously organic and synthetic. Living in a coastal city has motivated Berebichez to make work that gives attention to the wonders of nature. She seeks to raise awareness for the ocean, its inhabitants and the natural environment. Organic evokes the magical life found beneath the sea, with all its shapes and colors in full view. Working for months on each sculpture, Berebichez allows the works to grow in their own organic manner, much like the growth of coral. By adding a bioluminescent quality to her work, Berebichez continues her exploration deeper into the sea.

Creatures of Light will be on view from Saturday, October 6, 2018 through Sunday, April 21, 2019 inside the Hsiao Family Special Exhibition Gallery on the first floor of the museum. Admission to Creatures of Light is included in all museum admission tickets.

This exhibition is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org), in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Canada; and The Field Museum, Chicago.

Did You Know?

See the Light

In the deep sea, beyond the reach of sunlight, most animals—upwards of 80%—light up as they travel, hunt and mate.

Museum Map

Creatures of Light: Nature's Bioluminescence – Level 1