You light up my life: Bioluminescent bacteria and anglerfish

This activity introduces students to bacteria by investigating symbiotic relationships. Although symbiotic relationships can be harmful or beneficial, this lesson focuses on helpful bacteria to show students that not all bacteria cause infections. The bacterium focused on in this exercise is Photobacterium (formerly Vibrio) fischeri. P. fischeri, made famous by the movie Finding Nemo, is a bacterium found in the light organ of certain fish and allows the fish to attract prey to survive. Consequently, the bacteria benefit by feeding on the residual prey. The success of this feeding circuitry involves P. fischeri communicating with one another.

You Light Up My Life: Bioluminescent Bacteria and Anglerfish (PDF)


Intended Audience








Learning Objectives

At the completion of this activity, students will be able to:

  1. Define microorganism and the types of symbiosis.
  2. Explain why the relationship between anglerfish and P. fischeri is mutualistic.
  3. Demonstrate that P. fischeri must be close to one another and use chemical signaling to exhibit luminescence.


Student Background

Before the interactive activity, students should know the basic definition of microorganism, bacteria, and the concept of symbiosis. Additionally, it is important to remind students that organisms strive to survive using energy efficient strategies, and these strategies are affected by the environment.



Microorganisms, symbiosis, bacterial signaling, bioluminescence


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