Avatar Wiki
Avatar Wiki
Jake and Neytiri running

Bioluminescence on Pandora

Bioluminescence (Na'vi name: syuratan) is the production and emission of light by living organisms. It is employed by nearly all Pandoran life forms, as well as some on Earth. The Na'vi have patterns of glowing freckles that are unique to each individual. To avoid being detected by predators or prey, animals can damp down their own light. The RDA exploited it as another resource in the form of exotic jewelry and clothing.


Bioluminescent beauty

Bioluminescent plants

Most of Pandora's flora and fauna emit only one single color, often green, blue, indigo, or violet. There are exceptions, like the warbonnet fern. Its leaves are illuminated by a broad band of red near their stems and by an iridescent blue near their tips. On Pandora, there is also a bioluminescent moss that is touch-sensitive. It will send out rings of blue-green light as a reaction to footsteps.

Anatomical structure and mechanism[]


A flying fan lizard

Bioluminiscence is produced by enzymatic reactions that yield cold light. In such reactions, the valence electrons of organic molecules are raised to higher-energy orbitals, achieving an excited state. When those electrons return to their ground state, their energy is radiated away in photons, making up cold light. The conversion of chemical energy into light energy is very efficient, without any of it being lost as heat.

The reaction can occur within the metabolism of the creature or within symbiotic organisms that live inside of specialized organs, receiving food and oxygen from their host, and producing light in return.

There are several ways in which light production can be controlled:

  • Limiting the availability of the involved chemicals.
  • The reaction takes place in an organ that can be moved away from the surface.
  • A translucent muscle carries the light from an internal organ to the surface by expansion and contraction.
  • Covering of the light producing area with dark pigment cells (melanophores).
  • A dark membrane that can be drawn over the light producing area.

List of known luminescing fauna on Pandora[]



Avatar: The Way of Water[]


James Cameron's Avatar: The Game