Have you ever been to the seaside in the evening and seen the water close to shore shimmering? If you have, it’s because of a species of plankter called
Noctiluca scintillans, also known as sea sparkle. These single-cell organisms are bioluminescent (living organisms that produce light) when disturbed. It’s thought the glowing is a type of defence mechanism to keep other creatures from eating them.
Sea sparkles are so small that a single drop of water can contain thousands of them. They’re normally found close to shore in warmer sea water and there’s also more of them when the weather is warm.
Sea sparkles are a species of dinoflagellate, which can also cause red tide. This happens when there’s a build-up (or bloom) of certain types of dinoflagellates, which turns the sea bright red. Red tides can poison fish and humans can get sick from eating shellfish caught during red tide.
Sea sparkle, a type of phytoplankton, glows in the dark when disturbed. The word plankton comes from the Greek word “planktos”, which means “wanderer” or “drifter”. The study of plankton is called planktonology.