‘Incredible’ bioluminescence gives California coastline an eerie blue glow

An unusual algal bud, known as a red tide, has drawn many to the beach in the hopes of witnessing the stunning spectacle

A dense bloom of bioluminescent algae off the coast of southern California has lit up the Pacific Ocean with an eerie and fantastical neon blue light, sending photographers and spectators to the beach at night in hopes of witnessing the natural phenomenon.

The algal bud, also known as a red tide, was observed this week lighting up the waves along a 15 -mile stretch of coastline.

” Bioluminescence happens all the times, merely not at that level” said Dr James M Sullivan, a bioluminescence researcher at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.” This is an incredible one .”

It is not known how long the current display will last. In September 2013, the last day San Diego assured a red tide, the conditions lasted for a week. Other red tides have been known to last for a month or even longer.

The glowing coastline seen from Torrey Pines state beach in San Diego, California. Photograph: Alexander S Kunz/ Getty Images

According to Michael Latz of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the present red tide is made up of dinoflagellates, including one- Lingulodinium polyedra – that is well known for bioluminescent displays. The sheer concentration of tiny organisms constructs the water seem reddish during the day day. But the real display occurs at night, when any physical disturbance, like the motion of a wave, causes the organisms to emit light.

Dinoflagellates are basically tiny plants that they are able swimming, Sullivan explained. Like any plant, they require certain conditions( nutrients, sunlight, hot) to prosper, and when the conditions are right, its own population can explosion, creating a massive bloom.

Sullivan compared the process by which the organisms make illuminate to glow sticks, which contain two chemicals that create a fluorescent incandescence when mixed. Similarly, dinoflagellates contain an enzyme and a protein that, when disturbed, blend and release a quick flashing of sunlight. Each wave or passing fish, he told, is” just like violating a light stick “.

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