I stumbled upon this today which intrigued me and piqued my curiosity into digging deeper. Most of us, who live close to the sea would have seen some sort of blue shimmers in the sea. We call it “ren’dhali” in dhivehi, right? It’s like a scene from the movie Avatar or the movie Life of Pu. But it’s in our own planet, in my home country, and I haven’t seen anything like this one before; blue waves crashing on the beach on a moonlit, starry night. How wonderful would that be. Fascinating sight eh?
These pinpricks of blue light are biological light from phytoplankton; a single-celled marine microbe. Some of these are big enough to be seen with the naked eye. Many types of phytoplankton are known for bioluminescence, and the most common type of these bioluminescent phytoplankton is called dinoflagellates. A recent study coauthored by Woodland Hasting of Harvard University has identified a special channel in the cell membrane of dinoflagellates that responds to electrical signals. This channel lets only positively charged particles – protons – to pass through, says coauthor of this study, Thomas DeCoursey of University of Chicago.
Movement in the water sends electrical impulses, opening up the voltage sensitive proton channels. Followed by a series of chemical reactions triggered by this, activating a protein called luciferase, emanating the blue neon light. The glowing effect seen to our eyes is produced by millions and millions of these dinoflagellates. This probably is a form of defense for these tiny organisms, and certainly an entertaining view for humans.
This midnight light show on the shore of Vaadhoo Island of the Maldives would drop your jaw. It’s not an exaggeration, but to truly comprehend this sight, I must put this on my bucket list of places to visit.
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