Southern California's Bioluminescent Waves

Southern California's Bioluminescent Waves

May 05, 2020

I’m sure most of you have heard about the bioluminescent waves of the coast of Southern California. SoCal residents- I’m sure you can smell the ocean right now. However most of us don’t  know what causes this bioluminescent phenomenon.

Spoiler alert: it’s phytoplankton! The red tide off the coast of San Diego is actually a large patch of phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedra, L. poly. For short. The rapid growth of L. poly. Is due to the warm surface water after heavy rainfall.

When the phytoplankton are jostled by waves, they emit the blue bioluminescent light. This is an evolutionary response designed to scare off organisms that may eat the phytoplankton, or to attract an organism to eat the organism that may eat the phytoplankton.

This tide stretches from Baja California, Mexico to Santa Barbara, California, and is expected to last a few months. Thankfully, L. poly is non- toxic, so going in the water will not be harmful. 

So, we here at Algae Research Supply more than recommend going to view the bioluminescent waves, as it is a beautiful biological process. That said, please stay safe and practice social distancing guidelines!

-Erin F. Fox, 2020

Sources: ABC10 News; Forbes

For more info, read ABC10's Article: