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Railroad Worm

A railroad worm
The Next Gen Scientist [CC BY 2.0]
A railroad worm

A railroad worm is a larva, or larviform, female adult of a beetle of the genus Phrixothrix in the family Phengodidae, characterized by the possession of two different colors of bioluminescence. It has the appearance of a caterpillar. The eleven pairs of luminescent organs on their second thoracic segment through their ninth abdominal segment can glow yellowish-green, while the pair on their head can glow red;[1] this is due to different luciferases in their bodies, as the reaction substrate, called luciferin, is the same.

The "railroad worm" name arises because these glowing spots along the body resemble the windows of train cars internally illuminated in the night. The light emissions are believed to be a warning signal to nocturnal predators of their unpalatability.

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Rudy Mancke served as naturalist and co-host of South Carolina ETV's NatureScene, which began its long run in 1978. His field trips, broadcast nationwide, have earned him a legion of dedicated viewers. Rudy's knowledge of the complex inner-workings of different ecosystems and his great admiration for the natural world make him the perfect guide. In fact, the National Wildlife Federation and the Garden Club of America honored his commitment to resource conservation with special awards. Since retiring from SCETV, Rudy has gone on to teach at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.