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In the past week, the waters of San Diego have started to glow when agitated. No, this isn’t a sea monster invasion or a side effect of global warming. Bioluminescence comes from tiny microorganisms called dinoflagellates. These photosynthetic creatures are also referred to as phytoplankton and they support the entire marine ecosystem. Out in the open water where there are no plants, large crustaceans and animals feed on these dinoflagellates.

Glowing at night

During the day, phytoplankton appear reddish-brown. They’re not toxic to people and they’re also not very attractive to people either. However, at night, any sort of agitation to the water causes the dinoflagellates to release energy in the form of light. This is why you only see the bioluminescence when waves are crashing or when people are surfing.

Dinoflagellates magic

Dinoflagellate growth or red-algae blooms (this is incorrect since dinoflagellates aren’t technically algae, but that is a common term) are not a common occurrence in San Diego. However, you can visit other parts of the world where this particular species of dinoflagellate thrive naturally. You can go any time of the year and you’ll be able to experience glowing water every night. 

Permanent glow

Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico is the best place to see the glow as it has the highest levels of dinoflagellates living in the water. And for a guaranteed sightings beyond Mosquito Bay, stick to places like Isla Mucara in Colombia, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, the Maldives, Bali, and Florida.

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