This is a beautiful little animal with a brief and brilliant life.
Watasenia scintillans is a small (mantle length,~6 cm; wet weight,~9 g), luminescent deep-sea squid, indigenous to northern Japan. Females carrying fertilized eggs come inshore each spring by the hundreds of millions, even a billion, to lay eggs in Toyama Bay (max. depth, 1200 m) and die, thereupon completing a 1-year life cycle.
Watasenia possesses numerous (~800), minute dermal light organs (photophores) on its ventral side. Other organs are scattered over the head, funnel, mantle, and arms, but none is found on its dorsal side. There are five prominent organs beneath the lower margin of each eye. They all emit a bluish light. A cluster of three tiny black-colored organs (<l mm diam) is located at the tip of each of the fourth pair of arms. They emit brilliant flashes of light which are clearly visible to the unaided eye even in a lighted room. Some of the flashes have a cadence resembling that of a terrestrial firefly flashing at night, and thus the squid is known in Japan as the “firefly squid” or “hotaru-ika.”
A billion die every year as a natural part of their lifecycle; all those glittering little creatures dying profligately—Nature is both exuberant and pitiless, it seems.
Tsuji FI (2005) Role of molecular oxygen in the bioluminescence of the firefly squid, Watasenia scintillans. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 338(1):250-253.