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Press Release 11-224
Suggested Explanation for Glowing Seas--Including Currently Glowing California Seas

Potential mechanism for dazzling blue flashes of light in oceans identified

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Illustration showing how a flash of light is emitted when a dinoflagellate is mechanically agitated.

Proposed bioluminescence mechanism: When a dinoflagellate is mechanically agitated, an electrical impulse travels around its vacuole membrane. This impulse opens up proton channels that allow protons to flow from the vacuole into the scintillons, where they activate light-emitting luciferase proteins. The result: A flash of light.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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