Railroad worm

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Railroad worm
Railroad worm with lights both on and off
Phengodidae Phrixothrix
Scientific classification

Olivier, 1909


A railroad worm is a larva or larviform female adult of a beetle of the genus Phrixothrix in the family Phengodidae, characterized by the possession of two different colors of bioluminescence.[1] It has the appearance of a caterpillar. The eleven pairs of luminescent organs on their second thoracic segment through their ninth abdominal segment can glow yellowish-green, while the pair on their head can glow red;[1] this is probably due to different luciferases in their bodies, as the reaction substrate, called luciferin, is the same.[citation needed]

The "railroad worm" name arises because these glowing spots along the body resemble the windows of train cars internally illuminated in the night.[1] The light emissions are believed to be a warning signal to nocturnal predators of their unpalatability.[1]

The term "railroad worm" is also sometimes applied to the apple maggot.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Branham, Marc (February 2005). "EENY332/IN609: Glow-Worms, Railroad-Worms (Insecta: Coleoptera: Phengodidae)". edis.ifas.ufl.edu. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved 2016-10-11.
  2. ^ "apple maggot - Rhagoletis pomonella (Walsh)". entomology.ifas.ufl.edu. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. March 2015. Retrieved 2016-10-11.

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