I was wondering if we could ID male fireflies using their wavelength? A bit like how we use UV light to ID species of scorpions.

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    $\begingroup$ This might be a bit broad; I don't know. There are many species of fireflies, with different flashing patterns and intensities; some male fireflies don't even bioluminesce. Though the luciferin may be slightly different among species, I would doubt (but have no evidence) that it is different among sexes of the same species. It's much easier to tell which are males by their location and flash patterns. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Apr 8 '16 at 5:23

In short: Yes it should be possible, but probably not for all species and as @anongoodnurse said there are probably easier methods of species-identification.

I know (but could not find a reference) that there are currently hyperspectral cameras that are able to capture bandwidths as small as 2 nm.

And there are differences in the emission spectrum of fireflies. Firefly luciferase bioluminescence color can vary between yellow-green (λmax = 550 nm) to red (λmax = 620). ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2801227 ) There are currently several different mechanisms describing how the structure of luciferase affects the emission spectrum of the photon and effectively the color of light emitted. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luciferase)

However, it is likely that there are closely related species of firefly that have no (or very small) differences in emission spectrum. These will not be identifyable with spectral imaging.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you think we could ID individual in one species using wavelength ? Putting a set-up of those camera and then use Capture-recapture model to estimate population size ? $\endgroup$ – Nico Coallier Apr 10 '16 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ @NicoCoallier I don't know but I doubt that the spectral differences within a apecies are large enough. But there is only one way to find out... $\endgroup$ – RHA Apr 10 '16 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ very interesting stuff $\endgroup$ – Nico Coallier Apr 11 '16 at 16:30

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