Dinoflaggellates are members of the plankton family. These are single celled organisms that rage in size from 30 micrometers to 1 millimeter. These organisms are usually found floating in the ocean or close to its surface, but can also survive in fresh water. The organisms are usually found in all the oceans in the world; however, their concentrations vary from one place to the other.
In locations that dinoflaggellates are found in high concentrations, red tides are seen. This phenomenon refers to the way the concentration of the organisms changes the color of the water. Bioluminescent dinoflaggellates also produce their own light at night when disturbed, resulting in an impressive sight.
How Do They Produce Their Glow?
Bioluminescent dinoflaggellates usually glow through a process referred to as chemiluminescence. This term simply refers to reactions in which light is produced. Bioluminescence refers to the process by which light is produced in a living organism. These organisms produce light through a luciferin-luciferase reaction. The enzyme luciferase is closely related to the chlorophyll found in green plants.
It is worth noting that the organisms usually produce light until all the available luciferin has been oxidized. They however build up their reserves the next day and can glow again during the night.
Why Do They Glow?
Bioluminescent Dinoflaggellates glow for a number of reasons. Every time the water around the organisms is disturbed, they produce their signature glow. It is said that this is a defensive reaction meant to scare away any predators looking to feed on the organisms. The sudden flash of light usually confuses and scares predators away.
The flash of light is also used to attract predators that feed on the predators that feed on dinoflaggellates. This also helps keep these primary predators from feeding on the organisms.
Bioluminescent dinoflaggellates themselves are mainly photosynthetic but some also feed on prey.