Do you like watching the stars light up the sky at night? Then you should check out how plankton illuminates the sea around Ko Phi Phi at night with it’s brilliant blue-green glow, also known as bioluminescence.
Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. On land a great example of this would be the firefly, it’s abdomen flashing light in the dark like a small disco bug.
Bioluminescence is found in many marine organisms: bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, seastars, fish, and even some sharks. The most common type of marine bioluminescence is generated by phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates (tiny marine organisms).
Dinoflagellates do not glow all the time. Instead, they flash their bluish-green light when movement disturbs the water they live in.
Why do they bioluminesce?
Scientists hypothesize that the sudden flashing of light serves to startle, distract and illuminate attacking predators and cause confusion about the whereabouts of its target. Rather than becoming lunch themselves, the dinoflagellates make their predators the prey for even larger organisms.
What is Bioluminescence?
Bioluminescence is the product of energy released from a chemical reaction. These organisms contains luciferin, a molecule that, when it reacts with oxygen, emits light (aided by the catalyst luciferase, which helps to speed up the reaction.)
Most marine bioluminescence is expressed in the blue-green part of the visible light spectrum, since this transmits best through seawater and is not absorbed nor scattered.
How to experience bioluminence during your stay
Bioluminescent dinoflagellate ecosystems are relatively rare, mostly forming in warm-water. Here on Ko Phi Phi we are lucky enough to have high concentrations and the right conditions for these underwater light shows.
We primarily see bioluminescence triggered by a physical disturbance that causes the biolumiscent plankton to flash, glow and glitter in the sea at night. Armed with an underwater flashlight you enter the water with your guide and when comfortable you turn this light off, slowly move your hands from left to right. You will begin to see thousands of blue-green sparkles appear and disappear in the water.
Experiencing bioluminescence for the first time is truly amazing – let The Adventure Club be your guide!