Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence, light produced by a chemical reaction within a living organism. How beautiful is that? Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria (glowing bacteria) and of course the terrestrial arthropods like fireflies.
The uses of bioluminescence by animals include counter-illumination camouflage, mimicry of other animals, for example to lure prey, and signalling to other individuals of the same species, such as to attract mates. The principal chemical reaction in bioluminescence involves some light-emitting molecule and an enzyme, generally called the luciferin and the luciferase, respectively. In the laboratory, luciferase-based systems are used in genetic engineering and for biomedical research. Other researchers are investigating the possibility of using bioluminescent systems for street and decorative lighting, and a bioluminescent plant has been created for the same.
Recent appearances of bioluminescent creatures on seashores
Bioluminescence seems to have caught the attention of many when it showed up on the shores of Maldives and Bali where honeymooners and tourists were seen to take pictures and sharing them over the internet causing the world to go gaga over this beautifully magical effect of the bluish glowing waves that caught the hearts of travellers and photographers alike. It even made me wish I could travel to the other side of the world to experience the same. But I didn’t have to because surprisingly just a month later I was told that the beach near my house in Kerala was showing bioluminescent activity at midnight. I was thrilled. It was around the same time that these started appearing around beaches in south India like Chennai and Pondicherry causing people to come out in droves to witness this miracle of nature. But my excitement at the curious fact that it seems to be appearing and have in the recent past appeared a lot in many of the beaches of India was dampened by a fact that many aren’t aware of; that this appearance of bioluminescence is not natural and is attributed by marine experts to climate change.
Scientists claim that global warming is the culprit behind the recent growths of bioluminescent algae on Indian shores. A year-long study by scientists at the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently found that global warming may be fueling the growth of a bioluminescent marine plankton called Noctiluca scintillans that is harmful to the fish population. Fish were found to be dying in large numbers in the northern Arabian Sea.
“Less dense water comes to the surface because of the warming of oceans, encouraging these intense blooms, which has an adverse impact on fisheries. Currently, the western coast, the Persian Gulf and Oman are largely affected, but if it keeps on increasing, it will have drastic effects on fisheries along the Indian coast. That could be alarming,” S.C. Shenoi, director of INCOIS, told the Mint.
Other scientists have also linked the appearance of the neon-blue waves to the dumping of fertilizers and waste along India’s western coast, which caused the death of fish and other wildlife.
As beautiful and exciting it is that these blue lighted creatures have lately been seen to occupy the seashores, it is a sad indicator of our deteriorating climate change and India needs to recognize this and take action to fight climate change and to reduce polluting the oceans and seas now and in the future.