Red tide fluoresces blue when agitated via waves and wind

The photos were taken over a time lapse of 3-5 minutes, in essentially pitch darkness, hence all the blurriness. The red “suns” are  the lights emitting from the oil rigs outside off the coast of Hollywood Beach/Oxnard Shores around midnight-two o’clock in the morning. 

Algal Blooms are a bit of a hot topic as it is a confirmed sign of a tangible early indicator of acidification of the ocean the world over. Proof of toxification of the oceans via harmful algal blooms, due to run off from farmlands drain into the ocean. This causes the excess nutrients to be consumed by the algae/plankton. The rapid state of growth is so immense that it tends to discolour the ocean. Sometimes these algal blooms are very harmful to the surrounding environment, due to the rapid growth depleting the  O2 levels and the accumulation of toxins that are eaten by marine animals. This is in juxtaposition to other algal blooms called “red tides” as said algal blooms are not harmful to its surrounding environment-depending on the type of dinoflagellate that is causing the bloom, so caution is always advised. To the more curious onlookers the red tides that are observed in the oceans are usually a little further offshore due to the currents, and at the height of the bloom, a deep murky red color. It seems very unappetizing during the day, however the phytoplankton, also known as dinoflagellates, within the red algae that collect the light for photosynthesis process the energy for food. When agitated, the phytoplankton/dinoflagellates will give off an electric blue light, as seen in the photos above. This is due to the fact that instead of chlorophyll, they have a similar biochemical pathway that uses luciferin, which causes the bioluminescence. To reiterate, when the phytoplankton/dinoflagellate are agitated via waves/swimming/surfing/any type of movement whatsoever, there is a bright electric blue that fluoresces for a few seconds at a time. This is probably one of the most interesting natural phenomena that I have experienced, and one that eventually spurred my curiosity in the sciences.

Agitation of red algal bloom at night


10 thoughts on “Bioluminescence

  1. bianca.decuir247 says:

    I love the photos! I also remember learning about bioluminescence in Tuesday’s lecture so this is extremely relevant to our class. You mentioned that sometimes the algae blooms are very harmful, but I’m curious what your thoughts are on long term exposure to algae blooms on the environment? Do you think any species may adapt and even benefit from bioluminescence? Let me know, thanks!

    • michael.hernandez573 says:

      Algal blooms, sometimes specified as harmful algal blooms deprive the ocean of O2 which kills off any organisms in the vicinity. long term harmful algal blooms create dead zones in the ocean which is super bad for the food supply and further acidification of the oceans which will become a huge problem for countries and populations that rely on the ocean for food and industry.Then there is red tide, which can be a non harmful algal bloom-where you can swim in it, surf in it, etc. The adaptation of bioluminesence is to scare away preditors, usually nocturnal creatures with little to no light -ocean wise- if I’m not mistaken. Science.

  2. colton.morgan161 says:

    I had no idea we had bio-luminescence out in California. Did you go out of your way to see this this? If so how did you know when and where to find it?

  3. eric.joensuu355 says:

    Those pictures are amazing! I have never seen bioluminescence in person before, I had no idea it was so bright. Supposedly there is bioluminescent algae in the waters around Santa Rosa, and that if you spit into the water it will light up. Did you have to do anything special to see the light, or does it just happen on its own?

  4. mikayla.mcculloh510 says:

    Cool post, Michael. I had no idea bioluminescence was an indicator. It’s crazy how something so beautiful can be harmful. I saw some on Santa Rosa Island and never thought about it in these terms before.

  5. christine.hujing332 says:

    This is such a cool aspect and photo opportunity that you took for your blog post!! I love that you included the dangers of the algae blooms. I first learned about these in first grade because that is when Manatees became my favorite animal. I also follow a lot of manatee rescue pages on social media, so they are constantly reporting on how the algae bloom cause sickness and death in manatees.

  6. marcella.wilroy770 says:

    This is so sick!! I remember stumbling upon the bioluminescent plankton once in Ventura a few years ago. I’ve been checking here and then around this time of year in hopes of seeing it again. Though I was never aware of how to spot it. I’m super glad that you included it was a result of the red tide. I didn’t really understand there was a correlation between the two until now. The next time I see a red tide, I’ll know I need to come back at night for some sweet bioluminescence! I’m also thankful you included that not necessarily all algal blooms are toxic, I was worried considering I definitely splashed around in it the last time I saw it! Anyway, I’m glad you stumbled upon this because I’ve been dying for it to be brought up and class. Also this was super educational and now I know how to look for it. Thanks Michael!

  7. alycia.eade326 says:

    Hi Michael,

    I had no idea that red tide actually turns a different color when impacted by wind- that’s really cool. You have quite a bit of knowledge about the science behind it as well. It makes a lot of sense that there would be red tide located in that area because there are many farms in Oxnard- especially Coastal Berry Company LLC farm, which is I believe a mile or less from that coastal zone, and therefore the run off from these farmlands would drain into the ocean. It does bring to mind the question of ethics because obviously having a farming location within a mile of the coastal zone does pique some serious environmental concerns such as chemical pollutants draining directly and in a more potent fashion into the ocean waters. Do you know anything about this issue?

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