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Fantastic photographs of fluorescent fish

BioMed Central

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Credit: Michiels et al.

Scientists have discovered that certain fish are capable of glowing red. Research published today in BMC Ecology includes striking images of fish fluorescing vivid red light.

Due to absorption of 'red' wavelengths of sunlight by sea-water, objects which look red under normal conditions appear grey or black at depths below 10m. This has contributed to the belief among marine biologists that red colours are of no importance to fish. Nico Michiels, from the University of Tübingen, Germany, led a team of researchers who captured the striking images in the article which, as he describes, "Shows that red fluorescence is widespread among marine fish. Our findings challenge the notion that red light is of no importance to marine fish, calling for a reassessment of its role in fish visual ecology".

The authors identified at least 32 reef fish species belonging to 16 genera in 5 families that fluoresced visibly in red. Because the light is coming from the fish themselves and not filtering down from the surface, the red glow remains visible at depth and is easily seen at close distances. The authors speculate that red fluorescence may function as a communication or attraction signal, as proposed for other fluorescent animals, "We believe red fluorescence may be part of a private communication system in fish. Red fluorescence is at the borderline of what is visible to many marine fish, and due to rapid attenuation of red light by water, even those that can see red will be able to see it over short distances only. Fluorescent eye rings may function as an indicator of presence or reveal the direction of gaze."

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Notes to Editors

1. Red fluorescence in reef fish: a novel signaling mechanism?
Nico K. Michiels, Nils Anthes, Nathan S. Hart, Juergen Herler, Alfred J. Meixner, Frank Schleifenbaum, Gregor Schulte, Ulrike E. Siebeck, Dennis Sprenger and Matthias F. Wucherer
BMC Ecology (in press)

During embargo, article available here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/4055937552047693_article.pdf?random=347071

After the embargo, article available at the journal website: http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcecol/

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Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. There is a selection of pictures here:
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/Red_Fluorescent_Fish1.jpg
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/Red_Fluorescent_Fish2.jpg
http://www.biomedcentral.com/graphics/email/images/general/Red_Fluorescent_Fish3.jpg
More are available on request. Images should be credited to 'Michiels et al.'.

3. BMC Ecology is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in environmental, behavioral and population ecology of plants, animals, and microbes. BMC Ecology (ISSN 1472-6785) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, BIOSIS, CAS, Zoological Record and Google Scholar.

4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate access without charge to the peer-reviewed biological and medical research it publishes. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.

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