When it comes to bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton, ninety percent are all marine plankton. There are also quite a few freshwater species, some of these have actually been found growing in snow. Some are photosynthetic and others are non-photosynthetic, about half of these species fall into each of those categories. Second only to diatoms and the main producers found in coastal waters are the photosynthetic bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton.
The main source of flow-agitated bioluminescence in coastal regions is the bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton. These organisms are single celled and common members of the plankton which are tiny marine bacteria, plants or animals which float near or on the surface of the ocean. Ranging in size from around thirty µm to one mm, bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton is found in all the oceans of the world.
Bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton can occasionally be found in high concentrations, this result in red tides, and they have been named this due the high amounts of bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton which discolor the water. Being as the bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton is luminescent, at night they put on amazing and spectacular displays of bioluminescence.
It is usually very hard to actually predict red tides and when they do occur, they generally do not last very long. However there are areas such as the reputed bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico where throughout the entire year, the brilliant bioluminescence persists and makes for an amazing experience for those have personally been able to visit, as you enjoy some kayaking or swimming through the warm waters, you will experience something that you will never forget. You can experience the Grand Cayman bioluminescence tour with many companies to see the dinoflagellates in the bio bay.
Insight has been provided due to laboratory experiments on the role that bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton pain in marine ecology A startle response is caused to the predators of bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton due to their flashes, this disrupts their feeding behavior and results in a decrease of the grazing rate, this causes a reduction in the amount of bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton that are consumed.
It is also believed that the bioluminescence of the bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton acts as a burglar alarm; this attracts a secondary predator who will threaten to eat the main predator. When bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton is handled by a predator, the dinoflagellate cells are triggered by the imparted mechanical stress and cause a flash.
However any mechanical stress of a magnitude large enough, for example the syringe and forces of a wave or that caused by swimming animals or humans, is also a way in which the luminescence of the bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton can be triggered.
The complex cellular regulation of the bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton luminescence is one which is only partially understood, however ultimately the luminescent chemistry is caused by a drop in their pH, this is because of a sudden influx in the protons found within the cell. It takes under twenty mms from the time of stimulus to the emission of light, thus makes the cellular process one of the fastest that has yet been discovered.
Every dinoflagellate cell is able to produce more than one single flash, this flash then lasts around one hundred ms. However the cell´s bioluminescence capacity is depleted once all of the luciferin it has available has been oxidized. However throughout the next day it is able to recharge its chemicals and the following night, it can flash once more.
The ways in which more bioluminescent dinoflagellate plankton is produced is through asexual division. In this process the organism is split, it then produces two copies which are identical. The theca is shed and then, in each of the daughters it is regrown, or it could be divided and each daughter receives a half and a half that is regrowing. There are a few genera which grow as filaments. These are formed when after dividing, the cells do not separate.