Noctiluca algae

The Noctiluca scintillans (or the Noctiluca miliaris) algae which is more commonly referred to as the sea sparkle is a free-ranging marine species of dinoflagellate algae. It has the unique property to exhibit bioluminescence (light generation) when it is disturbed (popularly known as mareel).

What is bioluminescence?

  • When an organism produces light on its own, it is known as bioluminescence.
  • This single-celled alga produces light via the cytoplasm by a luciferin-luciferase reaction which takes place in its thousands of spherically shaped organelles, referred to as scintillations.
  • The phenomena of bioluminescence are also observed in the fireflies, a few beetles and in marine creatures such as Anglerfish and copepods.

Why is it in the news?

  • A blue shimmer was observed in the two beaches in Chennai, the Injambakkam beach and the Besant Nagar?s Eliot?s Beach.
  • The algae are dangerous as it is a voracious feeder of planktonic organisms(diatoms) which are primary blocks of the marine food chain.
  • The algae also excrete a massive amount of ammonia which is known to cause high fish mortality.
  • The outbreak of such algal patches has become increasingly common these days due to high agricultural run-off from the coastal areas and the resulting nutrient boom in coastal waters.
  • Such occurrences have also taken place near Mumbai, Goa, and Kerala.




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