Bioluminescence: Why Some Algae and Fungi Glow in the Dark

‘Sea sparkle’ is bioluminescent algae created by plankton. It creates a spectacular light show when agitated, but the phenomenon of glowing algae and fungi is not exclusive to the ocean.

The plankton is known to scientists as ‘Noctiluca Scintillans’, a nonparasitic, marine-dwelling dinoflagellate. When the plankton are agitated, they emit a glow as a defense mechanism from potential predators like fish. The glow works to distract their predators by directing them to the illuminated surface. The phenomenon exists on beaches throughout the world, from southern California to South Australia and Tasmania.

Bioluminescence is not exclusive to algae, with a mysterious ‘ghost fungi’ seen glowing in Australian bushland. Known as ‘Omphalotus Nidiformis’, it is a gilled basidiomycete mushroom. Common in the wet autumn months, it his highly toxic and can glow up to 24-hours a day. Credit: Various via Storyful