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Explanation for Glowing Seas
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Explanation for Glowing Seas

April 18, 2012
A new study has detailed a potential mechanism for the bioluminescence caused by tiny, unicellular plankton, known as dinoflagellates, that is visible at night in some marine environments. The proposed bioluminescence mechanism is as follows: When a dinoflagellate is mechanically agitated, an electrical impulse travels around its vacuole membrane. This impulse opens up proton channels that allow protons to flow from the vacuole into the scintillons, where they activate light-emitting luciferase proteins. The result is a flash of light. The study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation. This image accompanied NSF press release "Suggested Explanation for Glowing Seas--Including Currently Glowing California Seas." Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation