A Sea Full of Lighters


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As I was 'stumbling' the other day I came across an article about glowing ocean waves off the coast of San Diego.  After doing some further 'googling' I found that there are tons of other places where water actually glows;in the Florida Everglades, Leucadia Beach in California, the Maldives, the Lakshadweep Islands in India, and many more.  According to Aqua Views, an online SCUBA diving magazine, the 'glowing' effect is actually due to bioluminescent plankton.  More commonly than not, the specific type of plankton fall under the Dinoflagellates category. These organisms use their ability to glow as a defense mechanism.  The Dinoflagellates flash light when they feel threatened and ward off their predators (or kayakers or waves) because the predators get worried about their own predators because the flash of light would attract their predators by drawing attention to themselves.

Jorge Ribas, a marine biologist, referred to the bioluminescent plankton as the "red tide" or the "algae bloom" because during the day the plankton give off a red tint to the water.  According to Ribas, some of the red tides are actually extremely toxic to humans.  However, the plankton that also produce the glowing effect during the night are completely harmless to humans.

glowing pic 3.jpg

Also, in recent research done by the Nova Southeastern University scientists have found that about 90% of open ocean organisms have the ability to glow.  These researches also concluded that the bioluminescent plankton glow when they bump into something else since they can't swim on their own.  When the plankton bump into things, they feel threatened, so they are glowing because of that, which goes along with the findings that Aqua Views reported.  In addition to this finding, the researchers from the Nova Southeastern University found that predators use the specific colors that different organisms emit as a way of figuring out of they are poisonous or not.

The Scripps Institute of Oceanography has a portion of their website that is dedicated to better explaining bioluminescence in general.  Here they explained, in terms that I could easily understand, how these organisms actually glow.  A chemical reaction actually occurs in the organism to make the light.  Luciferin and Luciferase combine together.  "The Luciferase acts as an enzyme, allowing the Luciferin to release energy as it is oxidized." 

glowing pic 2.jpg

According to National Geographic, the glowing plankton are also present on the beaches in the wet sand.  As you walk along one of these beaches, your footprints will glow behind you!  Another interesting fact is that pilots have also noted that the glowing seas are bright enough that they can be seen from a mile high in the air!  

I think it is so cool that living organisms can glow like glow sticks and light up water so bright that it can be seen from miles away.  The images and videos are incredible and I know that I have added seeing this natural phenomenon to my bucket list!

**Excuse the language in this video :)


3 Comments

Wow,the shiny sea is so amazing and beautiful. Actually, I never heard of a sea full of lighters before reading your blog. And your blog really shocked me, I love this kind of view, so romantic in the dark evening...Maybe next time I can take a trip to there, and it is lucky that the flash light is "harmless to human" right? The truth that "the 'glowing' effect is actually due to bioluminescent plankton, they flash light when they feel threatened and ward off their predators (or kayakers or waves) because the predators get worried about their own predators because the flash of light would attract their predators by drawing attention to themselves" reminds me of how other creatures in the nature protect themselves.
Like the frogs,snakes spray some venom to protect themselves, and the Chameleon,tree lizard,desert snake change their color according to the surrounding and hide themselves.
10 of the Most Bizarre Animal Defense Mechanisms

Where else in the world do these phenomenon occur? Is it just limited to those parts? When was this first found out and do you know who found it? Was it a regular person or an actual scientist? I find this very interesting and would love to actually see it in real life.

Why would they glow, drawing attention to themselves, as a defense mechanism? Instead of maybe having prickly needles like porcupines, or nasty sprays like skunks. It would seem that they do the opposite of a chameleon, and don't blend in, but try to stand out. It's questionable whether lighting up would actually shock a predator enough to scare them off.

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