Two days ago, we were walking along a sunken lane in North Devon in the dark, when my son noticed a damp leaf in the middle of the road glowing in the dark. When we picked it up there was a small centipede/millipede on it and we found that this was clearly the source of the bioluminescence. Has such a bioluminescent centipede/millipede previously been observed in the UK or could it have been infected with some terrestrial bioluminescent bacterium such as Xenorhabdus lumiescens. Can anyone help please?
Bioluminescence is known in geophilomorph centipedes but I'm not entirely sure of the circumstances that promote this. I have read that it is a fluid secreted when they are under attack, but if you give these centipedes a bit of GBH (don't call the RSPCA anyone as invertebrates are not covered by the law) you don't appear to be able to promote the response very reliably. So perhaps there is more to it than this - a bioluminescent bacteria perhaps.
Thank you! I've just had a look at Geophilimorph centipedes and am pretty sure it was one of these. I've done a lot of work with bioluminescent bacteria before but had never appreciated that there was a bioluminescent species of millipede in the UK. It was glowing long before we touched it so like you say there may be other functions of the light. I would love to incorporate this little beasty into an arts project. Do you know if its common or easy to breed and keep in captivity.