What is bioluminescence and where can you find it in nature?

What is bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence is the production of light through a chemical reaction within a living organism. 

Many different types of organisms produce bioluminescence — from dinoflagellates in the ocean to fireflies on land.

Bioluminescent examples

In the deep sea (aphotic zone) where there is no sunlight penetration, more than 90% of the creatures are bioluminescent. The use of bioluminescence in this dark environment is an important tool for their communication.

In contrast to the deep sea, only a small percentage of terrestrial life is bioluminescent. Examples of these organisms are fireflies, mushrooms, millipedes and click beetles.

How to see bioluminescence in the ocean?

The sea is teaming with bioluminescent creatures. If you scuba dive at dusk in the waters around San Diego, you can experience this glowing phenomenon in nature. There’s also the rare occurrence of seeing bioluminescent waves during a red tide in southern California.

Bioluminescent waves

Red tides tend to appear from San Diego to Orange County when there’s an upwelling of nutrients from the sea floor due to currents or storms combined with an increase in water temperature. When the conditions are just right, a bloom of dinoflagellates can occur that tint the ocean reddish-brown during the day and produce a magical blue light show at night.

If you’re not a diver, don’t live in California, or don’t have the patience to wait for a red tide, we’ve got you covered. You can experience the magic of bioluminescence in your own home night after night with the Mushlume UFO.

Mushlume UFO

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