Swimming between shining stars: Bioluminescence

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August 2017, Lefkada Island, Greece, is a very nice night, the stars of the Milky Way are shining and sometimes you can also see falling stars, all is surrounded by the sound of the sea that wave after wave is shaping Pefkoulia beach.

Everything is perfect; at one point the french volunteer “Renaud” that is swimming in the dark water screams “Guys is amazing! Come!”, the answer : “We are busy watching the stars!”, Renaud did not give up and keep saying “Guys come here and you will see how many stars there are in the water!!”.

The last statement makes the writer of this article suddenly thing about a “bioluminescence” report in Halkidiki, a peninsula at the other side of Greece, so  suddenly  pants and t-shirt flows away and the first thing that catches the attention of the night-diver si about the temperature of the water, is perfect, also in the night, then the experiment, with big and strong movements under the water you can see them…little green and shining stars in the water.

A screenshot from the stunning bioluminescence scene in “Life of Pi” , 2012, Ang Lee

Is wonderful.

If you move yourself in the right way and if you take strong lights behind your back you can see your body completely surrounded by this little green shining glitters.

Why that? Actually these glitters are nothing more than little planctons(the most common are dinoflagellates) that in order to defend themselves from predators, they start to shine thanks to a particular  kind of chemicals called “luciferines”.

When dinoflagellates feel movements around they start to produce and to react with luciferine and as a result of this the moved water seems shining.

Basically you are in Lefkada and see the stars in the sky and the stars inside the water, this experience makes you reflect about the light, about the darkness, about life and about the universe and at the end you could end up to understand that from “macrocosmos to microcosmos” we are all made by stars.

Post Author: Lorenzo Sciuca

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