Bioluminescence on California coasts shocks local residences


 Recently, at most Southern California beaches, people have noticed that the waves they are used to seeing year round have changed in appearance. They appear to be a reddish color in the day and at night the waves light up to reveal a sparkling neon blue color. This is because of a process called bioluminescence.

Bioluminescence occurs through a chemical reaction that produces light energy within an organism’s body. In this case the organisms are single cell dinoflagellates. During the day the red tide is present, (Lingulodinium polyedra (a species of the dinoflagellates) and it is known to form algal blooms commonly called “red tides.”) There is a discolor of the tide because so many organisms are present and at night the water turns blue. Scientists don’t understand when or why bioluminescence will take place. Even though this phenomenon is occurring it is still perfectly safe to swim and surf in the waters. How these organisms respond if they feel any sort of mechanical stress is by producing a light, so at night when water is moving and forming waves then crashing this is what explains the glowing waves. Also when there is a predator they will use their light to scare the predators away. Lingulodinium Polyedrum are often the cause of red tides in Southern California, leading to bioluminescent displays on local beaches at night. 

After the quarantine is over so-cal families should take the time to check out the Southern California beaches to see this amazing site while still continuing to follow and respect health guides and recommendations.

Sources: All information credited to the Los Angeles Times and the Discovery Channel.

Video taken on May 8, 2020 at Oceanside beach featuring the blue glow that is emitted from the bioluminescence occurring along the coastal regions of California. This natural show has many flocking the the beaches a night to see it in person. (Aaleyah Winslow/ Ethic photo)

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