Noctiluca Scintillans – Sea Sparkles

Noctiluca Scintillans – Have you ever walked a beach at night and noticed the waves glowing? Not from your torch, but glowing from with in?

Noctiluca Scintillans

What you are looking at in those moments are dinoflagelates, a type of phytoplankton known as Noctiluca Scintillans, (literally translated: twinkling night light), or you may have heard them referred to as “Sea Sparkles”; and they can really be very spectacular!

During the day we call it “red tide” because when there is a large bloom we may see a pink line, floating on the tide. The bloom can be deadly to fish if it accumulates as it releases ammonia as the microalgae die.

Phytoplankton likes warm to temperate waters so are a fairly new addition to the marine environment in Tasmania. They were only first sighted this far south in 1994. They light up when disturbed as a self-defence mechanism – hoping to startle whatever is about to eat them!

Image by Black Paw Photography, taken last year during an incredibly large bloom on the shoes of the Derwent River in Hobart.  It was a spectacular event, if you’d like to see some more magical images, or read more click here, or here.

Do you have a Sea Sparkle story?