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Posts Tagged ‘Bioluminescence’

Photo: Stephen Bay  
Bioluminescent waves crashing against rocks at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego, Calif., last month.

How I loved the glowing waves we sometimes saw at night in late summer on Fire Island! The microscopic marine organisms that light up when disturbed apparently visit California earlier in the year.

Vanessa Romo writes at National Public Radio, “It took four attempts for Stephen Bay to see the neon blue waves crashing against the rocks at Torrey Pines State Beach in Calif., but when he did, just one thought went through his mind: ‘Holy cow, the waves are glowing!’ …

“A red tide off the San Diego coast is behind the brilliant display of bioluminescence that is lighting up the water and drawing huge crowds to marvel at the rare phenomenon.

“According to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the red tide is due to a cluster of dinoflagellates — microscopic organisms — that live in phytoplankton and light up when there is movement or are disrupted. …

“Bioluminescence expert Michael Latz said that local red tides like the one visible this week from Encinitas to La Jolla — about a 20 mile stretch — ‘have been known since the early 1900s due to observations by Scripps scientists.’ …

“It’s not clear how long the current red tide will last; in some instances they’ve lasted from a week to a month or more. The last red tide in San Diego took place in September 2013 and lasted a full week. A similar event in October 2011 lasted a month. More here.

Swimming in a warm, glowing ocean at night — heavenly. Some red tides are harmful, but NOAA says, “Most blooms, in fact, are beneficial because the tiny plants are food for animals in the ocean. In fact, they are the major source of energy that fuels the ocean food web.”

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Photo: Phil Halper/visitjersey.com
Bioluminescence on the Island of Jersey is caused by Caulleriella bioculata glowworms.

Back in the day, John was the World’s Number One Fan of naturalist Gerald Durrell, who wrote hilarious books about his family and how they handled his early infatuation with animals.

Durrell left his mark on the world with entertaining books, lemur conservation efforts, the Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey, and more.

In March, Lizzy Dening wrote for the Guardian about a visit to the island, and in particular, about her amazement at the bioluminescence there.

“It is only 7pm, but already it’s dark and our Jersey Walk Adventures guide points to a daisy anemone that glows brightly in the beam of a UV torch. It may be pitch black, but suddenly there’s a firework display at our feet.

“We’re here to see bioluminescence on an unassuming beach in Jersey’s La Rocque Harbour, at the south-east tip of the island. This magical effect is provided by elusive small brown worms. They are rare in most parts of Britain, but you can see them in Jersey all year round, as long as it’s dark and the moon isn’t full. The less light, the better. It helps that there are no street lights close by.

Caulleriella bioculata might not look like much in daylight, but by night, when you turn off your torch, the transformation is dazzling. …

“The worms are about 4mm long and are easy to miss when they are not emitting their strange greenish glow. When disturbed, they light up and continue to glow for up to 20 seconds before switching off to recharge. The glow is the result of chemi-luminescence, a chemical reaction in their bodies. Scientists still aren’t quite sure why the worms glow, but suspect it is for communication or defence. …

“As we walk, [our guides, Derek Hairon and Trudie Hairon-Trox,] explain about the vital work of the glowworms, which churn through the sand in the same way that earthworms work the soil, keeping it aerated and soft in texture. British beaches wouldn’t be the same without these hardworking creatures. …

“The couple were, they believe, the first people to officially identify these glowworms on Jersey. Before their discovery, the creatures were almost unknown to anyone except the local fishermen. …

“There are plenty of other attractions on the island, too. … The Durrell Wildlife Park was established by Gerald Durrell, and I’ve longed to visit ever since reading Menagerie Manor, which is all about his life on Jersey.

“Designed to act as an ark, protecting and breeding endangered species from around the world, it’s now run by Lee Durrell, Gerry’s widow, who shares his fierce passion for all creatures, no matter how strange (among other treasures, he famously gifted her four tarantulas for their 10th anniversary).” More here.

See also my related post on synchronous fireflies in Tennessee, here.

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