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    Re: Polynesian navigation
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Jun 6, 15:55 -0700

    Peter, you wrote:
    "Throughout the South Pacific waters I know well, swirls of colour at night 
    from water disturbed by, for example, dipped oars are indeed common.  Is this 
    rare in other places?"
    It's rare in some places, definitely, though I understand it's common in most 
    parts of the world. I've heard biologists describe this as an arms race among 
    organisms. They suggest that bio-luminescence in one species promotes the 
    evolution of bio-luminescence in other species in the same area. Where I have 
    spent a lot of time on the water, in southern New England, there are only a 
    couple of common marine organisms that emit light. I mentioned Mnemiopsis. 
    This, by the way, is a rather large comb jelly typically two to four inches 
    across and the light-emitting organs are like luminous strings within its 
    body, so when you see them light up, it doesn't make the water glow in bulk. 
    It's more like seeing fireflies. They can be very numerous though for a few 
    weeks every year. In other parts of the world, much smaller planktonic 
    organisms emit light and this can make the water seem to glow like it is 
    luminescent itself.
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