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Crit Rev Microbiol. 1993;19(4):191-216.

Light organ symbioses in fishes.

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Marine Biology Research Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0202.


Most bioluminescent fishes are self-luminescent, but a substantial minority of bioluminescent teleosts produce light that is due to symbiotic luminous bacteria housed in elaborate light organs. The majority of symbiotically bioluminescent fishes (ten families in five orders) harbors common free-living species of marine luminous bacteria: Photobacterium phosphoreum, P. leiognathi, and P. fischeri (= Vibrio fischeri). Others, associated with the beryciform family Anomalopidae and nine families in the lophiiform suborder Ceratioidei, have apparently obligate symbionts that have recently been identified by small subunit (16S) rRNA analysis as new groups within the genus Vibrio. This article summarizes what is currently known about relationships between light organ symbionts and their hosts, including characteristics of light organ environments, physiology of light organ symbionts, and the evolution of light organ symbionts and their associations.

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