Phenomena

Bioluminescence at the Beach

Beachgoers admire the bioluminescent waves crashing on a CA beach.

A bioluminescent phytoplankton bloom is causing a stir among California beachgoers. During the daytime, aggregations of Lingulodinium polyedra appear reddish-brown in color (think the classic ‘red tide’). But at night the phytoplankton bioluminesce, specifically when they’re disturbed by a change in shear force. This is why the brightest glows are visible in crashing waves or around the boards of surfers.

Beautiful as it appears, blooms like these are deadly to marine life. The excess numbers of phytoplankton strip water of oxygen, causing mass die-offs among fish. Even residents several miles inland of the beaches are reporting the unpleasant smell that results. (Image credits: AP; video credit: Scripps Institute of Oceanography; via Gizmodo)

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