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    Re: Glowing Sea Surface
    From: Trevor Kenchington
    Date: 2003 Nov 13, 21:10 -0400

    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
    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.
    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@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

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