What is better on a hot 4th of July than fireworks and fireflies? Fireflies (lampyridae) are a family of beetle in the order coeloptera-sheathed or covered wing insects-with a bioluminescent tail composed of a protein known as luciferase. Luciferase (and the related words luciferal, luciferin, etc.) take their name from Lucifer which is a combination of two Latin words lux, lucis meaning light and ferre meaning to bear or to carry. Lucifer was thus the bringer of light. While this image of the protein structure is colored for illustration only, it is nice that it looks so much like fireworks! The family lampyridae come from a Neo-Latin formation from the Ancient Greek lampouris, a glow worm (also occasionally refers to a fox) from lampein meaning to shine and oura meaning a tail. Lampein is one of those great words that exists today virtually unchanged in spelling, meaning and pronunciation!
Image of a common firefly courtesy under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.
Image of Crystal structure of Photinus pyralis firefly luciferase as published in the Protein Data Bank, used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.
Image of firefly by blueridgekitties under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.