A2: Why are there glowing beaches around the world?

Title: 6 Incredible places where the oceans glow

Source: Mother Nature Network (www.mmn.com)

Article date: July 14, 2016

Summary: This article talks about the glowing beaches that have been seen around the world and the science behind why they are glowing. There are phytoplankton in the sea that respond to electrical signals by emitting a blue glow when moved or disturbed making the beach look like its filled with stars.

Connections: In class we have discussed that microbes are everywhere, that they can have good (medications) and bad (diseases) effects and that they are beautiful. Well this article certainly focuses on the beauty that microbes are responsible for. To more specifically name a topic that has been covered in class, this article really relates to the physiology of a cell. The physiological reason for why the phytoplankton glow is because there is a reaction called luciferin-luciferase and it occurs in organelles called scintillen. Thousands of these organelles are what causes the bioluminescence. Phytoplankton without scintillen do not have the bioluminescent effect.

Critical analysis: This article was interesting and caught my attention because there were these beautiful beaches that had blue waves that seemed to be glowing and I was curious as to why/what made this happen. I learned that the scientific name for the specific type of phytoplanktin is Noctiluca scintillan. Noctiluca scintillan is responsible for what makes the beaches look like they are glowing. Noctiluca scintillan is a single celled protist who’s cytoplasm glows when disturbed. As far as scientific accuracy goes there has been some disagreement as to whether or not the glowing organism is phytoplankton or ostarcod crustaceans. The Huffington Post wrote an article that quoted a Cornell professor who argued that the organisms are actually ostarcod crustaceans but are commonly mistaken for phytoplankton. Other articles that I found credited phytoplankton for the glow in the waves. So it seems that article is scientifically accurate, there is just some argument between scientists as to what organism is actually responsible for the glow.

Question: While reading this article a question popped into my mind. Why do these organisms only sometimes show themselves? What makes them sometimes glow and sometimes not and what is the determining factor there? I know that they probably are only seen in certain places (that all seem to have warm climates) because that is most likely their ideal environment. But the article says that some ┬átimes they show up while other times they don’t. Which makes me wonder what causes this to happen.