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LUMINESCENCE

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Waves, splashes, and other distress
Cause some microscopic plankton to luminesce
A blue ocean glow can be seen at night
A rare but very special sight. 

A blue light can be seen at coasts in many places around the world. It is most usually caused by single celled organisms (dinoflagellates).  The color is visible only when those organisms occur in very large numbers (these situations are referred to as ‘blooms’). So, some nights the sea and sand may glow blue, most nights they will not.  As yet, no benefits of their ability to make light have been established.  There are plenty of videos on the internet that show the fluorescence in the water or in the sand. Our favorite is of dolphins swimming through a bloom.

Some bacteria, animals and fungi make light or luminesce
The reason for which we often just have to guess.
Animals in the deep and dark oceran
Use light to attract prey is one notion
The greeny glow from some jellyfish
Scientists can add to someone else.
One result is a green glowing cat.
Now, what do you think about that!

Luminescence occurs in a wide variety of organisms – including bacteria, protists (such as the dinoflagellates above), jellyfish, comb jellies (see Transparent page), some worms, snails, various insects, fungi, some echinoderms and fish.  The jellyfish on the page is Aequorea victoria, or crystal jelly.   This produces light in two stages. The first stage produces a blue light, but that light then affects a ‘Green Fluorescent Protein’ that emits a green color.  The gene that makes GFP that has been engineered into the genes of other organisms and makes them glow green.

The image below, courtesy of the Mayo clinic, is of one of the green glowing cats.  The organism with the added ability to make fluorescent protein has to be irradiated with a strong light, such as ultraviolet, and it will then re-emit some radiation as visible light.  If you can find the pictures of the green glowing piglets – they are very cute.

Some fungi produce a green glow
To spread their young where they can’t go.
The light attracts flies or other insects
Who feed and leave with teeny specks,
These spores are dropped later on
To sprout as the next  generation.

Luminescent fungi usually produce blue or green light. Fungi often spread their bodies – a network of fine threads (the mycelium) over sources of food – such as dead plant material. In some places, the glowing mycelium reveals the shapes of branches and other bits of plants.  The image here is of a mushroom that glows green.  Usually, it is suggested that the fungi use the light to attract night-flying insects that may then pick up spores that fall off somewhere else, and grow into a new fungus.

If you have more questions or comments, please let us know below.

Nature Reader colors web Luminescence

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