Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dinoflagellates: Bioluminescent Algae

In some oceans when the night is dark enough, you can see the waves glow as the water stirs. This is caused by phytoplankton called dinoflagellates. They give off a soft blue glow when disturbed. The chemicals they use are similar to the ones causing lightning bugs to glow.

When a person swims through the algae, the motion gives off a glow all around them, looking like angel's wings. Boats and wave action can also cause ripples of light to cascade in their wake. This video was taken at a dock in Australia where this algae is plentiful. People throw water on it to cause it to glow in amazing patterns.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm linking to your site to send people to see your photos. I hope that is okay. Did you take the video of the water being thrown in? That's so cool!


NovaBlogger said...

Hi, Vivian. Thanks for checking out my blog. I visited yours as well and liked it a lot. I wish I could have seen the glowing sand in person like you did. I wish I was there to take that video but I have only seen bioluminescent algae once in person.

I saw this effect once off the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the night while we were crossing the Sargasso Sea. As the ship broke the waves with its bow, you could see a faint shimmering glow each time a wave danced across the surface. They say cruises are magical but this part really made my vacation.

Vanessa said...

I did a science project with these algae!! I bought some from a website (Empco I think) and they came in a plastic container and light up when I shake them. Really cool stuff!

NovaBlogger said...

That's awesome, Vanessa! Now I want to order some bioluminescent algae too. I wonder if it would grow in a saltwater aquarium. If it didn't bother the fish, they would probably light it up as they swim. I bet your science fair project was amazing too. Did a lot of people like it?

Rudi said...

anybody know..??how did bioluminesencent happen..???