Evolution at its Strangest: The Glow-worm Cave

By Shlomo  Maital

Waitomo glowworm cave

  Those strange luminous ‘fishing lines’ in the picture are actually —   strange luminous fishing lines.  They are created by glow-worms, weird creatures that live clinging to the roof of the Waitomo Cave,  here in New Zealand.   Evolution has taught these creatures to attract their food – bugs and mosquitos that breed in the river below, that runs through the cave —   by fluorescent luminosity.  When the lights are turned out in the cave, there is a spectacular sight – the entire ceiling glows, with a thousand points of light, just like the heavens on a clear starry night.  And the older the glow-worm, the more luminous it is.   The ‘butterfly’ form lives only a day or two, and has no mouth (because it has no need to feed, its only job is to mate, reproduce, and die), but the worms live quite long.  And it dangles those strange strings down, to trap its food.  

    Evolution has created creatures that are superbly adapted to every possible environment – deep under the sea, in steam vents, and here, in deep dark caves.  Give Nature enough time, and it will solve any problem.  

    I think we can learn from these tiny glow-worms.  They emerged because Nature tried experiments.   By accident, one weird glow-worm was luminescent.  His friends all laughed at him/her.  Hey, look at Wormie there, he glows.  Let’s sing him a song–  Glow little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer….      But Wormie caught loads and loads of bugs,  enough to reproduce successfully.  And then Wormie’s kids, too, glowed…and down the generations. 

     This too is how humanity can crack its toughest problems.  Have enough creative people running around trying weird things,  trying to ‘glow’,   with bright ideas – and some of them may work.   Some of them may one day light up the world.