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Are there really glow-in-the-dark soil organisms?

Spooky critters inhabit soil’s dark places

Oct. 15, 2017 –  Soil organisms are diverse, with characteristics that can astound. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) October 15 Soils Matter blog post explains which soil critters glow—and why.

Jack-o-lantern“Soils are one of the most diverse habitats on Earth,” says Yamina Pressler, a soil scientist at Colorado State University. “Soil ecologists have estimated that we have only identified about 1% of all the microorganism species living in the soil! There is so much life still to discover below ground, and the organisms we have identified continue to amaze us – some of them even glow.”

Why do they glow?

Bacteria may glow to get noticed—and get spread further through the food chain. They may also use their glow to signal to other bacteria.

Fungi luminescence is more common than bacterial luminescence in soils. Their glow may attract insects who will carry the fungi’s reproductive spores further afield. They may also use a glow as a defense mechanism.

Collembola, or springtails, are microscopic arthropods that live in soils and leaf litter. The reason they glow? Still unknown! “While it might be hard to believe that an organism would glow for no real reason, we cannot rule it out completely,” Pressler says.

To read the entire blog post, visit…k-soil-organisms/

Follow SSSA on Facebook at, Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on, for teachers at, and for students through 12th grade,

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive, international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. It provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

SSSA supports its members by providing quality research-based publications, educational programs, certifications, and science policy initiatives via a Washington, DC, office. Founded in 1936, SSSA proudly celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2011. For more information, visit or follow @SSSA_soils on Twitter.