Bioluminescence

Image: Ostracod (Source: wikipedia.org)

Bioluminescence is a phenomenon that occurs throughout the marine realm, from comb jellies, to deep sea fishes, to coastal dinoflagellates, and ostracods.  Ostracods are tiny Crustaceans that use a light organ to produce and release luminescent chemicals into the water.  To my knowledge, no one has successfully photographed the spawning events of these bioluminescent critters in the wild. Although a camera cannot seem to do it justice, here are what I believe to be the first captured instances of Ostracod bioluminescence in the Caribbean:

Photo date: 8Mar2015

Photo location: Oil Slick, Bonaire, Netherland Antilles

Copyright Patrick Nichols 2015

“Now, at last, I was about to witness the event I’d waited so long to see. I still had not a very clear idea of what I’d see, though. As my eyes adjusted, I found myself not in a galaxy of stars, but in a field of shooting fireworks — ghostly spirit lights rising from the reef. I had imagined it was the organisms themselves that glowed, like fireflies and most other bioluminescent animals I know of. But it quickly became apparent that some little creature was squirting luminescent blue goo into the water as fixed points of light in a rising, zig-zagging pattern. The points persisted like a string of glowing pearls for several seconds before fading, so that perhaps 8-12 points were visible at any one time in an ephemeral, biochemical constellation.

Occasionally, whatever was making these displays would start doing so right in front of my face, seemingly oblivious to the presence of a large, bumbling human hovering nearby. Sometimes the squirts remained fixed points of light, but sometimes they blurred into a line if the water was moving. If I waved my hand, they blew away like smoke.”

-Jennifer Frazer, Scientific American

Continue reading more about Ostracod bioluminescence at:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/the-starry-night-beneath-the-caribbean-sea/