An Ocean "Glow Up"

It’s true, the ocean has recently had a “glow up!” About a week ago, off the coasts of Newport Beach, “glowing” dolphins were spotted on multiple nights! Algae caused bioluminescence in the water where dolphins were swimming and frolicking, depicting a glowing in their movement in the waves! Check out the video here.


What Is Bioluminescence?

We have briefly discussed bioluminescence in several Respect the Fin blogs, but let’s take a look at this particular case! The dictionary definition of bioluminescence is “the biochemical emission of light by living organisms such as fireflies and deep-sea fishes.” In our deep-sea blog post, we discussed different animals that have the ability to emit bioluminescence for a multitude of reasons. 


In this case, the bioluminescence is caused by something called a red tide. A red tide is an event where there is a substantial amount of algae (and phytoplankton) congregated in very little time. This is known as an algal bloom. The species causing the red tide in the video is called Lingulodinium polydera. The presence of this amount of algae creates a red-like color in the water and can alter chemical levels in the water, too. Oftentimes it decreases the amount of oxygen and has been known to make people sick if they come into contact with it. Red tide events can happen due to changes in temperature, salinity, nutrient content, and rain (NOAA). They can happen all over the world. When the water color changes, it appears to be a red or brown tint during the day, and at night it can appear to glow, light up, and look neon when waves are crashing and the water is being mixed up. 


“Glow In The Dark Dolphins” During COVID-19

Since this magnificent, nightly phenomenon happened along the coasts of San Diego, California, hundreds of people have gathered to watch the beautiful waves. Scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography predicted that this bloom began at the end of March 2020 and could last days, weeks, or even a couple of months. The city of San Diego police officers and health officials have advised people to continue practicing social distancing, avoid gathering in large crowds, and wear facial covers.  


It is so amazing to witness videos and photos of this unique event happening in Southern California. I hope this gives you some joy and excitement during these uncertain times we’re experiencing. I am still in awe of how incredible nature is, and how much biodiversity lives in the ocean! I hope you all stay safe, healthy, and continue loving our oceans.


Written By: Bailey Higa


Sources:

https://www.10news.com/lifestyle/exploring-san-diego/bioluminescence-explained-how-organisms-are-lighting-san-diegos-coast

https://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/national-international/glowing-dolphins-bioluminescence-newport-beach-ocean-video/2312407/

https://scripps.ucsd.edu/news/everything-you-wanted-know-about-red-tides

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