facts about ocean phosphorescence

taken from – http://mips.stanford.edu/public/abstracts/hastings.pdf

“Ocean “phosphorescence”, commonly seen at night when the water is disturbed, is largely due to the dinoflagellates; they occur ubiquitously in the oceans as planktonic forms, responding to mechanical stimulation when the water is disturbed by emitting brief bright light. Light emission may be seen in the wake of a large ship for some 20 miles. About 20% of marine species are bioluminescent and many are photosynthetic. “ Red tides” are transient blooms of individual dinoflagellate species. Phosphorescent bays (e.g., in Puerto Rico, Jamaica) are persistent blooms of this type.

Since dinoflagellates are stimulated to emit light when predators (e.g., crustaceans) are active, predators on the crustaceans might thereby be alerted to feed on crustaceans, resulting in a reduced predation on dinoflagellates generally. Predation on dinoflagellates may also be impeded more directly; the flash could startle or divert a predator, allowing that cell to escape predation. The response time to stimulation (msec) is certainly fast enough to have this effect.”

because a bunch of people have asked me questions about phosphoresence since i wrote about it and i really didn’t know much (so i researched it on the internet of course). i think this basically means that if there is a red tide in the area, you have a good chance of seeing phosphorescent micro-organisms since they are the same thing. red tides are thought to be on the increase due to climate change and human activity in lots of places so it seems as though these would be on the increase (and of course you do know that red tides mean – don’t eat the shellfish right)?

32 Comments on “facts about ocean phosphorescence

  1. Thanks for the info. I have not seen phosphorescence since I was a little girl, but would love to see it again.

    • What colour was it?
      I was just at Stinson Beach north of San Fran and it was an amazing neon green! Shockingly bright.

      • Its usually blue but there are others such as green like you described.

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  3. I was on Bowen Island BC this week and got to see the phosphoresence for the very first time, it was awesome!!!

  4. Hi I’m wondering when I can see the phosphoresence in Naples fl 😉 I think it’s someti
    me next month and I don’t wanna miss it !!!

    • Between sept 21 – 23, 2016 I could see the phosphorsence in Marco Island….I wondered if it was tied to the equinox???

  5. I am on the gulf coast of NW Florida and they are RAMPANT right now. Go out later when the moon is no longer visible this week and you will see millions of them!

  6. If you are on a boat at Catalina Island and shake your hand in the ocean, you can see it. It is amazing.

  7. does phosphorescence depend on the temp of the ocean? is it more common in summer than winter? in the north atlantic or the gulf of mexico?

  8. I was at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina February 26-28 and saw phosphorescence in the surf from an ocean front balcony. Was an amazing site.

  9. Saw this for the first time last week at Wallaga Lake on the STH coast of NSW. A friend who lives nearby told of seeing this and now I believe them.

  10. I saw it for the first time last night on the Edisto River (salt water) when we went swimming off of a friend’s dock on Russell Creek Road. It was incredible! You could wiggle your body around under water and they would come up from beneath you and be more like a cloud. Or you could run your fingers along the surface for really, really bright ones. Also, when we got out of the water, we noticed that they stayed illuminated on our black lab for a good 5 minutes! They were still on us too, as we noticed when we were toweling off (they lit up again). This sounds ridiculous and crazy, but we all agreed that it was very much like mermaid fairy tale. We are all over the age of 24 and there were 2 males in our group. It was very, very cool.

  11. @Jeni
    I live in Naples FL and I know that you’ve got a better chance of seeing it during the summer, but I’ve lived here all my life and only seen it once. Its truly magical, and I wish you luck on your search!

  12. I witnessed this last night all over the sea weed that had washed up on the beach! I even saw a loggerhead with it on her shell! The organisms twinkled as the sand dusted her shell, as she buried her nest. And again as she swam back to the ocean!!! Me and my family will never forget it.

  13. I saw this in the atlantic and med every night for two weeks! The lights actually got brighter when we relieved ourselfs over the back of the boat ; ) Thanks for the info. The world is full of little wonders! Peace.

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  15. We saw this for the first time this summer off the Strait of Georgia, Vancouver Island B.C. It is truly something that you will never forget, if you’re so lucky to have seen it. Anchored off the Island of Jedidiah, we stayed up until 2:00 am, swirling paddles, mops and various body parts.

  16. I’ve never had the good fortune to see it, but my son has seen it off the shore of the Clam Beach area of Humboldt County, CA. He was so blown away by how beautiful it was, he even talked about it in a song he wrote.

  17. looking for pictures of ocean phosphorescence. Also, looking for pictures of forest floor phosphorescence. Any clues?

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  19. amazing! we saw a phosphorescent tide last nite in Galveston Tx on the West End- it looked like neon green lightning running in the water! cannot tell you how awesome the experience was with the Gulf breeze and the stars overhead!

  20. I was on a mission trip in Roatan, Honduras and we would see phosphorescence in the water every night! The thing is, the lights would glow blue… None of the marine specialists in the area had any idea of what we were talking about, but our group had tons of fun “jelly-fishing” every night under the assumption that what we were seeing was jelly fish with bioluminescent properties 🙂

  21. Feb 29 2014
    The bay at Nature’s Valley near Plettenberg bay South Africa is lit up as far as the eye can see, with every incoming wave creating its own stunning light and sound display. Stars are super bright, reflecting on the phosphorescent wet sand – no moon tonight, but enough light to see by.

    One of nature’s wonders!

  22. Fascinating! friends saw it – I missed it – on a dhow in Oman waters near Sheesha Bay. They said it was like Life of Pi. I was shattered to have missed it. thank you for your information.

  23. I swam in it>> the Atlantic ocean around Star Island (Portsmoutth NH) in the summertime. You glow neon green under water like from another planet …This was the only time I experienced it.

  24. Of all things I’m a skipper and have spent 100’s of nights at sea, and when i was younger countless nights on local lakes in nsw Australia, I’m sure it was best to view on moonless nights, but taking it for granted i never noted if it was more visible in certain seasons. Does anyone have info on what tides, times, months or moon phases when it is most visible please?

  25. Had a huge green phosphorescence event while I was fishing on Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia last night. Mullet were jumping and small fish were supping on the surface which meant that there were hundreds of small explosions of light all over the bay. A wonderful sight. Rubbish for fishing though.

  26. There’s a whole load of the liquid blue star dust in the sea water coves and bays around Helford, Cornwall, UK.
    It appears to be denser and more magical the further out from shore you swim… take goggles at night and gaze into the submarine cosmos 😃. We went swimming in it last night on a cloudy full moon and it was out of this world 😊

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