As much as we love these beautiful summer light shows, animals in
the ocean may see things a little differently. Imagine trying to remain
inconspicuous amongst these luminescent minefields! Any inadvertent
motion could set off an ‘explosion’ of light and catch
the attention of a lurking predator.
It is thought that dinoflagellates use their ‘flash’ as
a sort of burglar alarm to momentarily blind their predators and provide
them with an escape opportunity. While organisms such as the dinoflagellates
create light to escape predators, others luminesce for reasons such
as attracting mates and obtaining prey. Deep-sea predators like the
anglerfish for example, dangle a light from their forehead as a lure
to capture fish.
On land, bioluminescence is most commonly seen in glowing fungi,
fireflies and a few other families of luminous insects. While bioluminescent
organisms light up and amaze people around the world, they’ve
remained primarily a marine phenomenon. In fact, bioluminescence is
the predominant source of light in the deep ocean. In these great depths,
it is thought that as much as 90% of the inhabitants are capable of
As the water temperatures rise and the warmth of the sun returns,
these fair-weather plankton begin showing up in abundance. If you’re
one for flashy shows, this is a great time of year to get out and enjoy
these living lights!
For more info on bioluminescence, or if you have any stumping questions
piling up in your head, come check out the Raincoast Interpretive
Centre at 451 Main Street in Tofino and let us ease your mind.
Dan Harrison is a summer interpreter at the Raincoast Interpretive