The ocean is a strange place after dark


Michelle Douglass writes about the mysteries of the ocean after dark. This article from (BBC Earth, 18 August 2017), mentions Puerto Rico and Jamaica, when she discusses bioluminescence. She also discusses animals that glow in the dark, mass spawning, celestial navigation of sea creatures, and more.

Moonlight triggers the world’s biggest orgy, strange creatures emerge from the depths, and waves glow blue. Some phenomena in the ocean can only be witnessed after dark.

Bioluminescence makes the sea shimmer

You may have seen the pictures.

It’s night-time in an impossibly exotic location. Waves are breaking on the beach. The water is sparkling with electric blue lights.

The internet loves an image of a magical-looking bioluminescent bay. You may also have seen travel bloggers bemoaning the real event as not quite living up the hype.

Even if the latter is true, bioluminescence (in this case usually caused by planktonic organisms called dinoflagellates) is a pretty amazing natural phenomenon.

Dinoflagellates emit blue light when disturbed, which is why they can be seen sparkling over wave crests, around boats or when a hand or paddle runs through them.

These tiny creatures are the most common source of bioluminescence at the ocean’s surface.

So-called bioluminescent bays such as in Puerto Rico and Jamaica are among the best-known places to witness the glow. However, the ephemeral phenomenon can be found throughout the ocean where there are dense gatherings of dinoflagellates.

Sometimes dinoflagellates’ population increases rapidly causing blooms, which by day are coloured a less attractive red-brown, sometimes known as red tides. And some, but not all, of these red tides are poisonous. [. . .]

For full article, see

[Photo credit: Perrine]

[For more incredible ocean stories, follow OurBluePlanet on Twitter. Get in touch with to share your most magical ocean moments, and for inspiration watch the launch video on the BBC Earth YouTube Channel. #OurBluePlanet is a collaboration between BBC Earth and Alucia Productions.]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s