A sea of stars: the phenomenon of bioluminescence

One of our favorite freaks of nature

Photo of author

By Leu


A beach that shimmers, with a strange electric blue light shining in the dark: the phenomenon seems surreal, but it is actually completely natural.

The glowing effect is due to the reaction between millions of bioluminescent phytoplanktons called Lingulodinium polyedrum and the oxygen present in the water, in fact these micro-organisms become particularly visible along the shore line, where the waves stir the water and where the passage of boats break the surface of the ocean.

Carried by ocean currents, these micro-organisms are often deposited on the beaches where they keep glowing. The phenomenon of bioluminescence can be observed in all oceans of the world. Simply, if a big enough bloom of phytoplankton gathers, and there is oxygen in the water, it is possible to see this magical effect with naked eye.

Isn’t it wonderful?

An amazing natural phenomenon!

More pictures, this time from Australia, Jervis Bay:


And back to the Maldives again!

Maldives bioluminescence

Still surprised? Well… You shouldn’t be.

As an American Oceanografist (Edie Widder) once said: “In the ocean, bioluminescence is the rule rather than the exception“. Bioluminescence is also used by some animals to send signals or defense against predators in deep ocean.

However, the chemical processes and the evolution of bioluminescence are still little understood: no doubt they will be an interesting field in the future years.

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