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    Re: Glowing Sea Surface
    From: Fred Hebard
    Date: 2003 Nov 14, 08:56 -0500

    Trevor,
    
    I'm quite certain viruses could not bioluminesce by themselves, since
    free virions are merely nucleic acids wrapped in a protein coat, rarely
    with some lipids.  No ATP to fuel the bioluminecsence.
    
    But why is it that disturbance of water leads to phosphorescence?  That
    would be an interesting, albeit off topic, question to address to the
    planktonologists (sic) at your wife's research station.
    
    Fred
    
    On Nov 13, 2003, at 8:10 PM, Trevor J. Kenchington wrote:
    
    > Fred,
    >
    > To have sufficient density of organisms to create an impression of
    > continuous light (not isolated "sparks"), I think it would have to be a
    > bloom. The really small planktonic organisms ("nanoplankton" and
    > "picoplankton") might be abundant enough even when their populations
    > are
    > low (or might not -- picoplankton weren't even discovered until after
    > my
    > undergraduate days and nonoplankton were then a new issue, so I never
    > learnt about either group). Otherwise, I am fairly confident that such
    > high densities are synonymous with blooms.
    >
    > The hurricane stirring means that this density of organisms would have
    > to be evenly spread from surface to bottom. That means an even higher
    > abundance than might suffice to explain the light if the water was
    > still
    >  until some disturbance set off the plankton.
    >
    > Where the stirring might come in is that some species which ordinarily
    > lives on the mud at the bottom could have been stirred up to the
    > surface
    > of the water. Whether that could account for the light or not, I do not
    > know.
    >
    > For the light to be bioluminescence, the organisms do have to be alive
    > -- by definition. Maybe some dead algae can glow through some
    > physico-chemical process, just as maybe some inorganic clay particles
    > can. I don't know.
    >
    > As I have noted before, many kinds of organisms can show
    > bioluminescence, including some fish, squids, shrimps etc. However, I
    > really doubt that any animals could be abundant enough to account for
    > my
    > observations. Some bacteria emit light (leave raw fish out for your cat
    > and, in a darkened room, you may see the fish glowing a strange shade
    > of
    > green!) and it is possible that what I saw was phosphorescent bacteria.
    > I have never heard of viruses creating light. Otherwise, algae are the
    > only living things in the water.
    >
    >
    > Trevor
    >
    >
    > You wrote:
    >
    >> Trevor,
    >>
    >> I was not intending to insult you, but rather to answer the question
    >> you poised a second time, after Jared & George's answer, and to point
    >> out as best I could for the whole list that a biological explanation
    >> was not unlikely.  Given that a hurricane was stirring the waters, it
    >> does not appear to me you have to invoke a bloom to explain what you
    >> saw, but rather a smaller population might suffice.  In addition, is
    >> there a need for the organism(s) to be alive to phosphoresce and do
    >> they need to be algae?
    >>
    >> Fred
    >
    >
    >
    >
    > --
    > Trevor J. Kenchington PhD                         Gadus{at}iStar.ca
    > Gadus Associates,                                 Office(902) 889-9250
    > R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour,                     Fax   (902) 889-9251
    > Nova Scotia  B0J 2L0, CANADA                      Home  (902) 889-3555
    >
    >                     Science Serving the Fisheries
    >                      http://home.istar.ca/~gadus
    >
    
    
    

       
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