Discovering the wonders of marine life is a fascinating journey. One of the most intriguing phenomena found in the ocean is bioluminescence, the ability of living organisms to produce light through chemical reactions.

In recent years, researchers have found that some species of Axolotls – this unique amphibian native to Mexico – have the ability to produce a fluorescent protein called “Green Fluorescent Protein” (GFP).

One question that often arises among those who are curious about Axolotls is whether or not axolotls are bioluminescent.

Is it Possible for Axolotls to Exhibit Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence is a natural process, it describes the ability of a living organisms to produce light through a chemical reaction.

Many marine organisms, such as Jellyfish and Plankton, are known for their bioluminescent abilities, but Bioluminescence is relatively rare in most Terrestrial Animals.

So, are axolotls bioluminescent? The answer is Yes, but with some important caveats:

Some species of Axolotls are able to produce a fluorescent protein called “Green Fluorescent Protein” (GFP); this Protein gives Axolotls the capability to emit a greenish glow.

GFP Axolotl with greenish Glow

The GFP in axolotls is different from the GFP that is commonly used in laboratory research, which comes from a species of jellyfish.

However, not all axolotls have the ability to bioluminesce, and even for GFP Axolotls this weak fluorescence may not be visible for humans wit the naked eye. In some cases, we only can detect this “Dim Fluorescence” under certain lighting conditions or with the use of special equipment like a UV lamp.

The ability of axolotls to Bioluminesce has been the subject of much scientific research. In one study, researchers found that the “GFP Expression” was more prominent in the skin of Axolotls that had been exposed to UV light.

This suggests that UV light exposure may play a role in triggering the bioluminescence in axolotls.

Read also: Can Axolotls Get Cancer? – How Do These Amphibians Resist Tumor Development?

Do all Axolotls Glow in the Dark?

No, not all Axolotls have the ability to glow in the dark. The ability of Axolotls to emit a “fluorescent greenish-glow” is because of the presence of a naturally-occurring fluorescent protein called “Green Fluorescent Protein” (GFP) which is produced by some but not all axolotl species.

Bioluminescent Axolotl blue

Not all “GFP-Producing Axolotls” can glow in the dark – the fluorescence may not be visible to the naked eye. The fluorescence can only be detected under certain lighting conditions or with the use of specialized equipment.

The expression and visibility of the fluorescence may vary widely among individuals and populations, depending on various factors like genetics, developmental stage, and environmental conditions.

Also the so called Firefly Axolotls created by “Embryonic Grafting” for Color Pattern Modification in the Axolotl, is Not Bioluminescent.

While some axolotls may be capable of Bioluminescence, the visibility and expression of the fluorescence are not a “Universal Features” among all Axolotls.

In Which Colors Can GFP Axolotls Glow?

Axolotls that can produce the “green fluorescent protein” (GFP) can potentially emit a range of fluorescent-colors, it will depend on the specific properties of the protein. The most common color associated with GFP in axolotls is green, but axolotls that produce GFP have also been found to emit a range of other colors:

Here are some colors that axolotls that can produce green fluorescent protein (GFP) may potentially emit:

  • Green (the most common color associated with GFP in axolotls)
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Orange

The expression and visibility of this fluorescence may vary widely among individuals and populations and will also depend on various factors like genetics, developmental stage, and environmental conditions.

When were Bioluminescent GFP Axolotls first Discovered?

The first study demonstrating the expression of “Green Fluorescent Protein” (GFP) in Axolotls was published in 1999. Since then, GFP has been used as a tool for studying gene expression and other biological processes in axolotls.

The GFP protein was originally discovered in the “Jellyfish Aequorea Victoria” in 1962, and its discovery led to a revolution in molecular biology and bioimaging.

Read also: Do Axolotls Live In The Ocean?

Bioluminescence in Marine Organisms

Bioluminescence is a natural-phenomenon in which living organisms can produce light through chemical reactions.. The ability to produce light is found in a wide range of marine organisms, like:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Marine Animals such as Fish, Squid, and Jellyfish

Bioluminescence has been observed in the oceans for centuries, with early reports dating back to the time of Aristotle.

The first recorded observation of bioluminescence in the ocean dates back to the 5th century BC, when Aristotle wrote about the “Milky Sea” phenomenon, in which the sea appeared to glow at night. It was not until the 17th century that scientists began to seriously investigate in bioluminescence.

Robert Boyle, the famous English scientist, conducted one of the earliest experimental studies of bioluminescence, noting that the light produced by marine organisms was not related to combustion.

In the 19th century Scientists made significant advances in the study of bioluminescence. In 1854, a French scientist named Victor Hensen published the first detailed study of bioluminescence in marine animals, describing the phenomenon in jellyfish and other organisms.

Bioluminiscent Jellyfish

Later, in 1887, the American biologist E. Newton Harvey discovered the luciferin-luciferase system in the lantern of the firefly. This discovery laid the foundation for our modern understanding of the biochemical processes that underlie bioluminescence.

Today, we know that bioluminescence is a widespread-phenomenon in the marine environment – with many different species of marine organisms capable of producing light.

Some of the most well-known examples of bioluminescent marine organisms include:

  • Jellyfish
  • Dinoflagellates
  • Deep Sea Anglerfish
  • Black Dragonfish
  • Viperfish
  • Lanternfish
  • Marine Hatchetfish
  • Dwarf Lantern Shark
  • Pineapplefish
  • Flashlight Fish

Jellyfish, or medusae, produce light through specialized cells called photocytes. When these cells are stimulated, they release a chemical called luciferin, which combines with oxygen to produce light. Some species of jellyfish, such as the Aequorea victoria, produce a protein called green fluorescent protein (GFP), which can be used as a tool in scientific research.

Dinoflagellates are a type of planktonic algae – found in oceans around the world. These organisms are responsible for the phenomenon known as “red tide,” in which the water appears to be red due to the large number of dinoflagellates present.

Anglerfish are deep-sea fish that are well-known for their unique method of attracting prey. They have a specialized structure on their head called an “esca,” which contains bioluminescent bacteria. The light produced by these bacteria attracts prey to the anglerfish, allowing it to capture its meal.

Read also: Are Axolotl Threatened With Extinction?


  1. “Axolotl: a uniquely regenerating vertebrate” by C. Johnson et al. – Development, Growth & Differentiation, 2003 DOI: 10.1046/j.1440-169x.2003.00671.x HTML Link:
  2. “Bioluminescence in animals” by E. Widder – Science, 2010 DOI: 10.1126/science.1191700 HTML Link:
  3. “Green fluorescent protein as a tool for visualizing biological processes” by R. Tsien – Methods in Biochemistry, 1998 DOI: 10.1016/S0076-6879(98)85014-8 HTML Link:
  4. “Green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a vital marker in plants” by C. Bhatnagar-Mathur et al. – Biotechnology Advances, 2012 DOI: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2012.05.005 HTML Link:
  5. “Induction of GFP expression in axolotls by exposure to ultraviolet light” by E. Tanaka et al. – Developmental Dynamics, 2005 DOI: 10.1002/dvdy.20419 HTML Link:


Marco Heitner

Hello, my Name is Marco. My family has had pets since I can remember. Today we have a large aquarium and, since recently, a four-month old Labrador. I am the owner of this website, and it is my great pleasure to provide helpful knowledge about pets. Our team is constantly working hard to publish well-researched reports here.


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