Bioluminescent Oceans: Liquid Neon

Jake with Tree Sprites from the Movie Avatar / 20th Century Fox

Jake with Tree Sprites from the Movie Avatar / 20th Century Fox

We saw them in the movie Avatar. Plant and animal life that pulsed, glowed and floated in the dark forests and burst into light whenever they were disturbed. This enchanting, bioluminescent world of the Nav’i was patterned on a place that is much stranger and even more eccentric than any found on Pandora. It lies in the deep recesses of all of the oceans on Planet Earth.

“That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below, is from that which is above working the miracle of one.”
The Emerald Tablet

What Lies Beneath

An undescribed species of hydromedusa in the genus Tetrorchis shows. / Photo and Text Credit: Steve Haddock, The Bioluminescence Web Page

Since the time of the ancients, the creative principle has been defined as light and the Sun has represented that creative force on Earth. Light is plentiful on the Earth’s surface and with the exception of fireflies, glowworms, a few mushrooms and a Malaysian snail, there are very few bioluminescent species that exist on land.

It’s the exact opposite in the Alice in Wonderland  world of our oceans, where the overwhelming majority of deep sea creatures emit light. If we were keeping a planetary scorecard of who took up the most space — all humans — and all of the sun-loving, air-breathing plant and animal landlubbers would be on the losing team, because most of our planet is an ocean. shutterstock1use

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA), maintains that 71 percent of the entire surface of our Earth is an ocean. It’s also a mystery – since it’s estimated that more than 95 percent of this vast underwater universe has never been explored. The World Register of Marine Species has recorded and described almost, 220,000 marine species; but according to the findings of a comprehensive, global study conducted in 2012, up to one-third of all the remaining  marine species are still unknown to science.

The Vegas Strip of the Deep

Most of this enigmatic world exists in a state of utter and perpetual darkness, yet its inhabitants sport some of the most garish, psychedelic colors in the cosmos. Why are they so colorful when they live in the dark? What is the Vegas strip doing in the depths of our oceans?

YouTube Credit: 7777bigjim

You Light up My Life

Ninety percent of all marine species discovered so far are able to generate their own light. They are communicating, dating, evading predators, luring dinner and blending into the scenery to avoid becoming dinner. They turn on the lights when they’re

A deep-sea scyphomedusa Atolla vanhoeffeni / Steve Haddock / The Bioluminescence Web Page

A deep-sea scyphomedusa Atolla vanhoeffeni / Steve Haddock / The Bioluminescence Web Page

bothered. Their light is important because it’s seen by others who respond and light up too — or swim for dear life to safety. This inky world rivals even the most exclusive gated community — this is a B.Y.O.L. community – Bring Your Own Light.

Heat From a Marine Creature Will Never Send You to the Emergency Room

If you touch a burning light bulb it can burn your skin because it generates much more heat than light. Eighty-five percent of the energy coming from your light bulb is heat – only two percent is light. Light bulbs are not very good at what they do. If bioluminescent marine organisms were as inefficient as light bulbs, the oceans would be boiling from all the wasted heat.

How Many Plankton Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Dinoflagellates (single-celled plankton) are the most prominent bioluminescent organisms in our oceans. They’re among the most amazingly tiny creatures, ranging from microscopic to the thickness of a dime. They may be small, but they work smart. When dinos, as well as all of their larger bioluminescent brethren make light, they produce cold light. Light with no heat. Biological light (cold light) derives from a chemical reaction between two substances in the presence of oxygen. The components were named after Lucifer, Latin for “light-bearer” in 1887. Luciferine acts like the fuel, and luciferase ignites the fuel. Their chemical reaction produces light.

Vieques Bay / Photo Credit: ttp://

Vieques Bay / Photo Credit:

One of the most dazzling displays of biological light occurs in Vieques Bay, Puerto Rico and was measured by Sara Gasparich, who found between 20,000 to 150,000 dinoflagellates per liter of water. The dinos burst into neon blue whenever they’re disturbed. Blue is the most common marine light and the colors blue and green travel more easily through water.Water slows down the light waves and absorbs them much more than in the air. Also, the intensity of this light decreases rapidly with water depth.

Growing Dinos at Home

You don’t need to walk them – and don’t expect them to come to you when you call – but it’s possible to grow dinoflagellates at home.  There are companies online that sell dinos as well as other bioluminescent species like sea fireflies  (Ostracods).  We are not endorsing any company.

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” Genesis 1:2-3

Water in Human Body /

Water in Human Body /

In most of the world’s creation stories, water is seen as a primordial symbol and light as its organizing principle. Water sustains Earth and it sustains us. Just as Earth is roughly 71 percent water — water makes up between 60-75 of the body weight of humans. Our human containers of biological water are in proportional harmony and balance to the amount of water on our planet.

What Do Babies and Bananas Have in Common?

They are both predominately made up of water.  A whopping 75-78 percent of the body weight of a baby is water. Anyone who has been on diaper duty is not surprised by this.  Bananas are a close second at 74 percent water.

Water and Light: The Two Threads Connecting all Sentient Life

Water is the mechanism of transport for all nutrients through the cell membranes of our bodies. It is contained within and around the cells of all humans, plants and animals.

Water and light are the two threads connecting all sentient life.

Physicist David Bohm believed that life is embedded in a implicate order — where all that is, acts in relationship to all that is. Bohm believed in an underlying, unifying, elegant force that is coherent and inclusive. Water and light exemplify this force. They envelop and sustain life. They store and transmit information that embraces and supports life.

We can’t exist without them.