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Another magical night in Elkhorn Slough with a great group of home schooled seniors with http://www.bluewaterventures.org

On moonless summer ~fall nights as the dusk or crepuscular feeders are finishing up a meal, the light show produced by bioluminescence dinoflagellates is about to unfold. One such algae is Noctiluca scintilllians and our plankton tow from last night may reveal this species or others. Noctiluca is a bioluminescent dinoflagellate capable of generating light. A variety of marine species exhibit bioluminescent properties, a chemical reaction between the compound luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. Bacteria within the species may also produce cold light.

Marine species have bioluminescence qualities for a variety of reasons. They may flash a particular pattern of light to attract a mate or to startle a predator. Other species may have bioluminescence to lure a curious yet unsuspecting prey towards them providing an easy meal. While a single dinoflagellate may only have a diameter of .5mm, collectively they can produce an impressive amount of “sea sparkle” in the water column.

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