Located in the maldives, known as ‘the sea of stars’ Vaadhoo island is breathtaking. The pinpricks of brilliant blue light seem to mimic the stars above and make for some incredible natural lighting.
Its blue-glowing waves are the result of bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is caused by tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton emitting light as a product of chemical reactions.
Bioluminescence occurs widely among animals; Fireflies, Anglerfish, jellyfish, glow worms, fungi and many more species carry out this reaction, but the most common marine organism to do this are the Dinoflagellates. The wide distribution of this ability suggests that there is some sort of advantage to being able to glow.
There is believed to be a number of uses for bioluminescence in nature; ranging from defensive functions, distraction, mate attraction or as a lure. In the case of the Dinoflagellates it is most likely a defensive function. If a predator eats these tiny glowing organisms then the predators insides will glow, making it easier for ‘higher’ predators to see them.
Although, as is mostly the case in nature theres an answer, some deep-sea fish have developed stomachs with black linings to hide the bioluminescence from prey they have swallowed. Pretty neat.
Moving water around the Dinoflagellates causes ion channels to open causing an influx of proteins in scintillons (the bit that flashes) these proteins cause the pH to change and a cascade of reactions follows. The enzyme luciferase catalyses the oxidation of a light emitting pigment luciferin. Which is why this is seen best on the shoreline, it also means that you can wave your hand through the water to create this neon light.
I think i just found something else to add to my bucket list!
Heres are a couple examples of the other species which do this