Fireflies that light up in unison found at Grandfather Mountain by NC State professor

LINVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A type of firefly that can synchronize its light display has been found at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina.

Dr. Clyde Sorenson, an entomologist from NC State University, discovered Photinus carolinus at Grandfather Mountain while hosting a workshop on the mountain. Photinus carolinus is the only species of firefly in North America that can flash in unison.

It previously was known to live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In fact, it's such a major draw for visitors, there is a lottery from late May through early June to win tickets to see the fireflies.

The new discovery means the popular bugs can live at higher elevations than previously thought.

"There's only a handful of species all around the world that do this, and for a long time, this particular species, the phenomenon of seeing large numbers of them synchronizing has been associated tightly with just a couple geographical areas," Sorenson said. "But the species goes all the way from New York to Georgia. Where they have been most widely known and recognized for so long is at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But that's at 2,200 feet. Where I saw them (at Grandfather) was at 4,200 feet."

Further studies will look into how the fireflies behave in different elevations and temperatures, but the bottom line is: the discovery has scientists and nature-lovers excited.

"Any time people can witness one of these really neat natural history spectacles, it increases their appreciation for the natural world and their interest in helping preserving it," Sorenson said.
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