The guides of Newport Coastal Adventure have a lot of experience tracking animals in the waters off of Southern California. Earlier this week, they captured something that looked a bit out of this world.
Right after sunset, a pod of dolphins appeared alongside their boat… and they looked like they were glowing! Thankfully the boaters managed to capture this awe-inspiring and mesmerizing sight on video so the whole world could see.
In the video it looks like the dolphins are emitting a neon blue light. They look magical. And frankly, it looks a bit unreal! But, the craziest part of all? This glow is actually a natural phenomenon caused by a type of phytoplankton.
What Causes the Dolphins to Look Like They’re Glowing?
The appearance of a glowing, bioluminescent light actually comes from the presence of microbes in the water called phytoplankton, which are tiny marine bacteria, plants, or animals. The most common kind of phytoplankton is known as dinoflagellates. And dinoflagelletes are what can be found in the water off of California. When those dinoflagellates are disturbed — such as from a pod of dolphins swimming by — they emit a glowing light.
In other words, the dolphins may look like they’re glowing, but they’re not! Rather, when the dolphins swim through the water where the dinoflagellates are, they cause the dinoflagellates to emit a bioluminescent light. The dolphins then reflect that light. It’s a 100% natural occurrence! Nature is, simply, amazing.
More Fun Facts about Bioluminescence
Dinoflagellates are one of the biggest reasons for bioluminescence, or the appearance of glowing water. Biologists believe the primary reason phytoplankton emits a glowing light is to scare off marine predators!
Bioluminescent waves — an incredible, beautiful sight — can be seen throughout the world’s oceans at night time. Even so, they are incredibly unpredictable, which is what makes the video of the dolphins so absolutely cool. We can watch the video over and over again, and be in awe of the incredible beauty and power of nature.
More Resources to Learn about Glowing Phytoplanktons
Are your kids fascinated by marine animals, plants, and bacteria that glow? They can learn more about this natural phenomenon with Netflix’s “Night on Earth,” as well as the fun and informational book “Glow: Animals With Their Own Night Lights” by W.H. Beck.
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