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Moths are positively phototactic

Phototaxis is a kind of taxis, or locomotory movement, that occurs when a whole organism moves towards or away from stimulus of light.[1] This is advantageous for phototrophic organisms as they can orient themselves most efficiently to receive light for photosynthesis. Phototaxis is called positive if the movement is in the direction of increasing light intensity and negative if the direction is opposite.[2]

Two types of positive phototaxis are observed in prokaryotes. The first is called scotophobotaxis (from the word "scotophobia"), which is observed only under a microscope. This occurs when a bacterium swims by chance out of the area illuminated by the microscope. Entering darkness signals the cell to reverse flagella rotation direction and reenter the light. The second type of phototaxis is true phototaxis, which is a directed movement up a gradient to an increasing amount of light. This is analogous to positive chemotaxis except that the attractant is light rather than a chemical.

Phototactic responses are observed in many organisms such as Serratia marcescens, Tetrahymena, and Euglena. Each organism has its own specific biological cause for a phototactic response, many of which are incidental and serve no end purpose.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Madigan, Michael and John Martinko. Brock Biology of Microorganisms. Prentice Hall 11th Edition.


  1. ^ Martin, E.A., ed. (1983), Macmillan Dictionary of Life Sciences (2nd ed.), London: Macmillan Press, p. 362, ISBN 0-333-34867-2 
  2. ^ Menzel, Randolf (1979), "Spectral Sensitivity and Color Vision in Invertebrates", in H. Autrum (editor), Comparative Physiology and Evolution of Vision in Invertebrates- A: Invertebrate Photoreceptors, Handbook of Sensory Physiology, VII/6A, New York: Springer-Verlag, pp. 503–580. See section D: Wavelength–Specific Behavior and Color Vision, ISBN 3-540-08837-7