Seas that Sparkle and Shine!
Just when we think we have seen it all, the creation of Allah, Al-Mussawir, The One who has given everything a special form, leaves us speechless yet again!
Stretches of beach glowing and twinkling an electric blue offer a breathtaking sight. This is because of millions of tiny creatures called bioluminescent phytoplankton. These organisms glow like fireflies and emit light when stressed, such as when waves crash or when they are otherwise agitated.
Creatures both on land and sea can produce light through chemical reactions in their bodies known as bioluminescence. The glow results from a chemical reaction when certain chemicals are mixed together and produce energy which ‘excites’ other particles on vibration. The group of chemicals involved to make plankton glow are broadly termed luciferins and the light is produced by a series of reactions set off by a catalyst called luciferase.
These creatures occur in all the world’s oceans. The most common of these are Dinoflagellates which are also known as fire plants. The astonishing thing is that even tiny one-celled creatures like these are endowed by Allah with the ability to defend themselves, and use bioluminescence to evade predators and as a defense mechanism. The light flash produced by these tiny creatures lasts only a fraction of a second, but it is enough to surprise the predator causing it to worry about other predators attacking it, making the predator less likely to prey on these tiny creatures.
Places where you’re most likely to see bioluminescence:
Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques has the nickname of Bioluminescent Bay (often called Bio Bay) for the bright plankton that illuminates the water. Unexpectedly, the bay went dark in January 2014 but brightened again in June, although at a lower intensity.
Millions of phytoplankton form a group of algae so big they discolour the nearby water. Surfers see a “red tide” every few years, when these creatures give the sea a reddish tint by day and a bright blue phosphorescent glow by night.
The typical blue glow is seen in the sea from about July to February, especially during a new moon since the darkness of the sky helps intensify the light.
So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.[Quran, 23:14]