Glitter in the Ocean
Date: August 2008
While in the ocean (salt water) at night
during turtle season..it 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?
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,
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Update: June 2012