Bioluminescent Algae

By Cameron West-Johnson

July 7, 2019

During the later summer months (late June through early October) when the sun is strongest and the rain is heaviest, some areas of the Indian River lagoon System grow bioluminescent algae called Dinoflagellates. Whenever the water is disturbed either by our paddles, hands, or even the marine life that lies below, these Phytoplankton create a bright blue-green light in order to ward off predators.

Dinoflagellates being the phytoplankton they are, belong to the Domain Eukaryote. To create their bioluminescent glow, an enzymatic chemical reaction occurs when the compound luciferin is oxidized by the enzyme luciferase, thus creating what is known as “cold light”, meaning little heat energy is lost.

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