Sea sparkle: Bloom of Noctiluca Scintillans


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bioluminescence, Noctiluca Scintillans

Mains level: Not Much

The blooms of Noctiluca Scintillans, commonly known as “sea sparkle” are being witnessed along the coasts of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time find their way into the prelims. Note this down.

Noctiluca Scintillans

  • Scintillans is a bioluminescent specie that brightens the seawater during the night.
  • It grazes on other micro-organisms such as larvae, fish eggs, and diatoms. But the unicellular phytoplankton that lives inside it can photosynthesize, turning sunlight into energy.
  • They help their host cell survive even when food was scarce.
  • Thus, N. Scintillans acts as both a plant and an animal

Threats posed

  • According to marine experts, the phenomenon is an indicator of climate change.
  • While smaller blooms may be harmless, slow-moving larger blooms may have an impact on deep-sea fishes.
  • The toxic blooms of N. Scintillans were linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills.
  • Though the species does not produce a toxin, it was found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia, which is then excreted into the surrounding waters, possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms.
  • They have displaced microscopic algae called diatoms, which form the basis of the marine food chain. This has deprived food for the planktivorous fish.

Back2Basics: Bioluminescence

  • It is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • Animals, plants, fungi and bacteria show bioluminescence. A remarkable diversity of marine animals and microbes are able to produce their own light.
  • It is found in many marine organisms such as bacteria, algae, jellyfish, worms, crustaceans, sea stars, fish and sharks.
  • Luminescence is generally higher in deep-living and planktonic organisms than in shallow species.

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