The Anglesey coastline is lighting up. Noctiluca scintillans, or sea sparkle, is caused by bioluminescent plankton. This occurred earlier in 2018 off the coast of California, and more recently, North Wales has been enjoying the magical show of one of nature’s smallest creatures. A lot of locals are flocking to the water to witness the spectacular sight, with many bringing cameras and some even swimming around with the tiny organisms, which produce light using a chemical called luciferin.
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The light is created by a series of oxidation reactions. It’s typically used as a defense mechanism to draw predators toward the creature trying to eat the plankton. And it only works when it’s disturbed. During the day, they look like red/brown/orange dirt in the water, earning them their other name “red tide.” Scientists say that warmer weather conditions and calm seas, which the Penmon waters are currently experience, definitely help the occurrence. These conditions can also cause a bloom in bioluminescent organisms, with the incoming tide and low moonlight increasing visibility.
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Dr. Andy Davies, from the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, said, "The warm weather will lead to rapid growth and reproduction of phytoplankton. You will see this best in sheltered areas, such as bays, mostly around dusk. Small waves will activate the bioluminescent response and you can capture this best with a slow shutter on your camera.”
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Dr Rupert Perkins, a senior lecturer in marine bioscienes at Cardiff University, added, "Microalgae called dinoflagellates are bioluminescent and could well bloom in the warmer more stable weather conditions we are having. Some species often bloom when there are large increases in nutrients, a process called eutrophication, and this can cause the phenomena of red tides.” Check out the amazing video below...