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Name: Victoria
Status: other
Grade: other
Location: FL
Date: August 2008

While in the ocean (salt water) at night during turtle was also lighting out but was far away..there were white sparkles looking like large glitter around our bodies. Also when we would lift our bodies out of the water they would fall off with the water flow coming off our bodies. while in the water if we would move fast there was a glow making the water lighting up for that breif moment...what could it be?

What you are seeing is luminescent plankton, called dinoflagelates, which produce light in much the same way that glow worms and fire flies do.

It is believed that they glow when disturbed as a way to deter predators. Dinoflagelates would be eaten by shrimp and other small animals, but who wants a meal that acts like a traffic light to tell all the bigger fish where you are?

Nigel Skelton

Hello Victoria,

This phenomenon you observed was most likely caused by "bioluminescent" dinoflagellates, as these microorganisms are known to produce the effect of emitting light when they are disturbed. These are also known as marine plankton or phytoplankton. Examples of these creatures are the species that create "red tide" which is harmful to fish and irritating to people. However, not all dinoflagellates are dangerous, nor do all dinoflagellates exhibit this glowing effect. For the species that do luminesce, when they are in heavy bloom, you can sometimes observe that crashing ocean waves "glow" at night as well. It is thought that this may be a means of communication between the organisms called "quorum sensing"; which may aid in behavior coordination.

Hope this helps,

Joel Jadus

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