Imagine walking down a beach full of white sand, with a cool breeze blowing, and then you see the water glowing with a luminescent blue. Seems so unearthly right? Well here in Vadhoo Island, Maldives it is a reality.
Strolling down the beach in this island, you will definitely be mesmerized by the amazing blue ocean glowing so ever heavenly. It has since been dubbed the ‘sea of stars’ as a result. You must be asking yourself how on earth this is possible.
Well the occurrence is caused by bioluminescence, and is the effect of chemical reactions in phytoplankton, microorganisms that lives in water, that occurs when the oxygen levels changes in the water. These microorganism are a source of food to many sea creatures, and this is their defense mechanism.
The microorganisms have a very powerful glow that can be seen across the membranes of their predators. This puts the predators at a risk of attracting larger predators. So for the sake of many, a few would sacrifice themselves to light up who ever consumes them, therefore, the predators would rather avoid feeding on the bioluminescent phytoplankton.
A common type of these bioluminescent phytoplankton goes by the name of dinoflagellate. They are unicellular protists that are photosyntyhetic.
At times, some of the bioluminescent phytoplankton’s blue light may be toxic. Some dinoflagellates for example, are very toxic even to human beings. They may produce a neurotoxin that is quite dangerous to animals and may cause paralysis.
Mechanical stress may cause the phenomenon, as in the case of red tides. Movement around the dinoflagellates causes electrical impulses to be sent to a proton-filled compartment in their body.
The pulses open proton ion channels that lead to the part of the cell that produces the light called the Scintillon. Proteins then flow in and after a series of reactions, cause the cell to glow. Oxygen plays an important role as a catalyst, and hence any changes in oxygen levels in the water will lead to bioluminescence.
Dinoflagellates are not the only bioluminescent creatures in the world. Other sea creatures that exhibit the same characteristics include anglerfish, deep-sea squid, krill and certain types of jellyfish. Fireflies fall in this category as well.
Despite Vadhoo Island not being the only place in the world where bioluminescent phytoplankton are found, it is most definitely the best. They are also found in Rangali and Mudhdhoo within the same country.
Other places in the world you can find the same phenomena is Lakshadweep Islands in India and Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico. During red tides in Leucadia Coast, Carlifornia, this luminescence can be seen too.
The best time to see it is when there is no moon at night. If you come across them, you can wave your hand on the sand where the phytoplankton is to produce shapes of your liking.