How to implement bioluminescence

We appreciate this write up!

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that most microbial life does not have the capability to “see” light as we do. Though several do have the capability of detecting light, such a feature isn’t implemented in Thrive. So something like “using bioluminescence as a source of light in dark environments” won’t be a very accurate implementation of bioluminescence. It would be very relevant in the macroscopic stages though, when you do require sensory organs to understand what is going on around you.

That is an interesting note about bioluminescent trails, however. Even though most bioluminescent bacteria cannot detect light itself, they obviously can something considering it can effect their behavior. From what I understand, bacteria largely utilize bioluminescence to communicate with other bacteria or to somehow effect their predators. If we let it be so that bioluminescence activates if the player’s species is fleeing a predator, then that lets the player know that a predator is near if they see a light. Combine that with bioluminescent trails, and you can have some sort of communicative ability.

Ultimately, I do think that if nothing else, bioluminescence being just a cosmetic thing isn’t really that bad of an idea. It can be thought of as communication in an abstract way, since it lets the player see other members of their own species pretty well. Though that obviously makes things complicated for auto-evo. And I do think bioluminescence deserves a visit again when we let the player have control over their biological processes so that they only do a certain thing given a certain condition. So, if the player knows that an AI species does something desirable when there is light, bioluminescence can be used to trick that AI species into doing that thing when convenient.


Something I should note is the bioluminescence trail was a suggestion from ChatGPT, and since this post I have done research and haven’t been able to find any sources. The closest thing I have found is that some animals produce a bioluminescent mucus that they use to coat predaters.
I will edit return if I can find a source for the trails.

Edit: I have not found anything about trails, but I have found another potential use for the organelle. According to a theory by Rees et al the predecessor to bioluminescence was to protect “oceanic organisms from potentially deleterious reactive oxygen species”. I’m not completely sure what this means, but it appears to have something to do wit protection from high concentrations of oxygen. So maybe, the microbe stage part that will later become bioluminescence can be used to lower the cells oxygen levels or give it a survival threshold in high oxygen patches. I’m not sure how it would be useful, but maybe when the great oxygenation even is implemented, it will gain a use.
Here is the quote from Wikipedia:

Rees et al. use evidence gathered from the marine luciferin coelenterazine to suggest that selection acting on luciferins may have arisen from pressures to protect oceanic organisms from potentially deleterious reactive oxygen species (e.g. H2O2 and O2− ). The functional shift from antioxidation to bioluminescence probably occurred when the strength of selection for antioxidation defense decreased as early species moved further down the water column. At greater depths exposure to ROS is significantly lower, as is the endogenous production of ROS through metabolism.

Just found a video that explains this theory. Most of it goes over my head, but I think it delivers it’s point.


Bioluminescence could also have a use in multicellular/macroscopic stages, not just cellular stages, by replacing the signaling organelle, being used to signal other members of a species, such as for mating, indication of danger, the same kind of stuff as the signalling organelle is used for, but specifically at later stages.

That type of thing is already commonly done by pheromones, which signalling agents can represent, so I don’t think they should be replaced;
although having both do similar things is reasonable, albeit redundant.

They could have restrictions put on where they can be used. Such as bioluminescence is mostly just a water thing in real life.

how did none of you think of using it for photosynthesis like glowing lichen does

what now?
glowing lichen? the thing from minecraft? the ultra popular fantasy game?
that alone would disprove this as a plausible thing
but you do realise producing light costs energy, right? i’m pretty sure i dont have to explain how inefficient that will be

Continuing my idea that the bioluminescence organelle will initially be used to protect from high concentrations of oxygen, maybe the great oxygenation even can make some patches into Fromsoftware poison swamps. Just like how a consumable item is always needed to traverse a poison swamp; if you want to live in a patch with high oxygen concentrations, you have to have the proto-bioluminescence cell.
This would make it so the play has to consider longer routes around the world map when traveling through patch maps because they may not want to sacrifice the needed ATP for the proto-bioluminescence cell.

Edit: Since this is bringing up a lot of stuff about the great oxygenation even, should I create a separate topic to discuss the implementation of that.

Will the cells with a photoreseptor* organelle be able to see the bioluminating cells at a greater distance?

A single photoreceptor cannot really determine anything else except if it is in shade or not, it cannot tell the direction or estimate distance or anything like that.

i may have used an example that is from a fantasy game but all the components exist irl

you could also use photosynthesis to reclaim energy from a communication organ (which, for plants and fungi, would likely be to attract pollenators) or to get energy from another bioluminescent organism or to transport energy across large distances more efficiently when those distances are large enough that all the glucose would get used up before reaching its target destination otherwise or to make autoevo be pressured into evolving a plant with 100% photosynthetic efficiency etc.

What you’re proposing is still not plausible
Bioluminescence is too inefficient for those uses

also if you have glass production in your cells you can make a biological lightbulb and power it with endosymbiotic geobacter metallireductens or sulfurreductens
and since it is entirely powered by life it is still technically bioluminescence meaning this

is technically false

you’re trolling, right?
in what way is making a living lightbulb useful???
and how in the belgium is what i said now false???

i only said technically false as it is not entirely true due to the efficiency of bioluminescence varying greatly and if you include a biologically made and powered lightbulb it varies even more

communication and biolazers to either transport energy or attack predators with a blinding or burning attack
also preventing death by electrocution when one of your predators uses electricity to hunt

also if you have biologically made actual solar panels on the bottoms of your leaves and electrosynthesis then you can greatly increase photosynthetic efficiency and maybe even lose the chloroplasts to make it even better

They can see the direction of the sun* or a “high light intensity*”, but you are right, cells can’t see each other[1].

Maybe there can be a a species that is large enough to create enough light on its own and small enough that it can’t just filterfeed*, it has to chase (or in this case lure) microbes.

It seems to me that the only[2] reason cells have bioluminescense is because of the multicellular creatures. Communication doesn’t happen and counterillumination isn’t necessary because they are already transparent. They either use it to not get eaten[3], to get eaten[4] or they help the multicellular creature bioluminesce.

  1. There is a probablity that they can see each other if they are in caves, but caves have a low population anyway. “The background illumination […] and decreasing below 103 visible photons per 1 cm2 per second only in very dark environments like caves. […] In conclusion, we can state that cell-to-cell signaling through light with reported intensities is physically possible only in extremely dark environments where the signal-to-noise ratio is relatively high and the necessary bandwidth is rather narrow. Other possibilities reside in the modulation of the properties of individual photons. However, the existence of mechanisms in biological systems for this purpose is not known” Cell-to-cell signaling through light: just a ghost of chance? | Cell Communication and Signaling | Full Text ↩︎

  2. other than reasons not related to light production such as toxin resistance during the great oxidation ↩︎

  3. 8.08 in the first video ↩︎

  4. “According to this hypothesis, luminous bacteria growing on food particles visually mark their presence for higher trophic organisms, such as fish or zooplankton. These glowing particles have been shown to be preferentially ingested (Zarubin et al., 2012). The consumption of the particles by the predator would provide the bacteria a more suitable environment regarding the growth conditions and the nutrient accessibility (Nealson and Hastings, 1979). Therefore, attached bacteria are transferred to the nutritious guts of these macroorganisms, where they survive digestion and gain effective means for growth and dispersal. Thus, bioluminescence would be highly beneficial for marine bacteria, especially in food-deprived environments like the deep sea.” ↩︎

Good to see folks taking a gander at this topic! You’ve got a good general idea here.

As of now I am pursuing two different potential paths of bio luminescence that allow for an effective use. The first, oxygen resistance, is a great one that you too have found. By using bio luminescence you are able to burn away excess oxygen (which can be very deadly for unadapted species), and make light as a byproduct. This mechanism is currently the leading theorized mechanism through which bioluminescence first evolved and was later found to have other uses by organisms and is likely how we will be implementing the feature. From there, we can implement more interesting uses in the form of upgrades as needed.

The next is a far more vague possibility of luminescence being the byproduct of an ATP generating process, but documentation on such is very few and outdated so it may have since been disproven or otherwise possessing no further leads beyond speculation.

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will there be a way to generate light with electricity and a filament in an organism though

Electricity? Most definitely
Light? Certainly

Light made from electricity and a filament like some kind of halogen light bulb? absolutely not. Any organic substance that is somehow capable of conducting enough electricity to make a filament glow will also almost immediately burn up from the resulting heat.

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what about an organism, through evolutionary creationism, making a glass bulb with a silica cell wall exoskeleton tissue and having that tissue take air from its inside actively and letting it diffuse out into the environment(whether that be the blood, the water, or the air) and having some cells print a lightbulb filament from a metal(like tungsten) or actively take mercury from the blood and put it in the bulb to prevent mercury poisoning and to be kept there to make the lightbulb glow and have it be a coil bulb when the mercury vaporizes in the coil bulb.