Notes 1: Silent Sparks

A World of Wonder
As I try to stay connected to wonder, I’ve drawn inspiration from the writings of Rachel Carson (Carson 1965) as well as from biologist Ursula Goodenough’s compelling description of religious naturalism (Goodenough 1998).

More and more people are traveling to seek out fireflies in natural places. Information about firefly tourism comes from the following news stories. Estimates of tourist numbers in Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia come from: from email correspondence with Dr. Tsung Hung Lee (Taipei; Dec 10, 2013), from Thancharoen (2012), and from Nada and colleagues (2009).

Chen, R. (2012, May 19). In search of Taipei’s fireflies. Taiwan Today.

Brown, R. (2011, June 15). Fireflies, Following Their Leader, Become a Tourist Beacon. The New York Times.

The unique significance of fireflies in Japanese art, literature, and culture is described by Yuma (1993), Ohba (2004), and Oba and colleagues (2011). For translating the first of these works, I am indebted to my colleague and friend, Ray Kameda.

Firefly Basics
The estimates about when in Earth’s history both beetles and fireflies originated are taken from McKenna & Farrell (2009). They’re based on so-called timetrees, which are evolutionary trees whose time scales have been calibrated using dated fossils.

Patterns of firefly diversity and exotic species introductions are based on Lloyd (2002, 2008), and Viviani (2001). McDermott (1964) mentions the attempted introduction of Photuris fireflies into parks in Seattle and Portland. Majka & MacIvor (2009) describe how European glow-worms might have gotten accidentally introduced to Nova Scotia, and report on populations they found more than 50 years later in cemeteries around Halifax.

Looking for Love with Perfumes, Glows, and Flashes
Like all living creatures, fireflies carry their history in their genes. The evolutionary history of fireflies has been reconstructed by Branham & Wenzel (2001 and 2003) based on morphological traits, and by Stanger-Hall, Hillis & Lloyd (2007) based on DNA sequences.

Branham (2005) and Lewis (2009) give overviews about how different courtship styles in fireflies might have evolved.

Further Exploration

Silent Sparks: The TED Talk
If you’re too busy to read my entire book, then first check out my TED talk – this tells the condensed (14 minute) version of fireflies’ story.

Firefly Watch
You can learn more about fireflies and sign up to report on your local lightningbug activity with this citizen science project hosted by Boston’s Museum of Science.

The Fireflyer Companion
Between 1993 and 1998, firefly expert Jim Lloyd distributed this informal newsletter dedicated to increasing awareness of firefly biology. Brimming with firefly facts, musings, poems, and even an occasional crossword puzzle, The Fireflyer Companion was a good vehicle for Lloyd’s eclectic and sometimes rambling communication style.