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Among the luminous bacteria isolated from various natural sources, the most frequently found are the following: Photobacterium phosphoreum, Photobacterium leiognathi, Vibrio fischeri and Vibrio harveyi.

Due to their ability to emit visible light luminous bacteria colonies on solid medium can be easily differentiated from other bacterial colonies in darkness. Bacteria V. fischeri form yellow pigment and can be easily differentiated by the colony colour.  V.harveyi produce into the medium brown pigment, their colonies have respective colouring in case of long cultivation or storage on solid medium.

The genus of luminous bacteria can be determined by examining the form of growth in semi-liquid agar (compact, usually consisting of microcolonies - for Photobacterium; dissipated, homogeneous - for Vibrio) [Medvedeva et al., 1993], and by estimating the luminescence reaction kinetics [Vorobyova et al., 1982, Sandalova, Tyulkova, 1992]. The specific dependence of the luminescence reaction kinetics on the length of the aldehyde used makes it possible to assign luminous bacteria to certain species [Vorobyova et al., 1982].

Taxonomically close species, P.phosphoreum and P.leiognathi, have different temperature characteristics of growth.  P.phosphoreum strains grow at 4oC, however most of them terminate their growth at a temperature of 25oC and have optimal temperatures of growth between 18 and 20oC. P.leiognathi strains grow well at temperatures between 30 and 35oC, don't grow at 4oC and above 40oC.