It’s April in Australia and I’m standing in a small humid cave at Tamborine Mountain. All around me covering the walls and ceiling are tiny specs of light – Glow worms! These amazing creatures have the ability to emit light through bioluminescence. Pretty cool.
Many creatures have this fascinating ability to glow, especially marine life – captivating beauty – a whole galaxy of stars floating on the surface of the water. Some call it sea sparkle and it’s clear to see why. It’s not just in the water that luminescent creatures exist. On land the most familiar examples are glowworms of course, fireflies – flashing to attract mates on a warm summer night and…you are not hallucinating…certain types of mushrooms! (Well, you could be hallucinating depending if you ate one or not!)
Forests are also treated to an extraordinary pyrotechnic light show from fireflies. Sometimes a whole mangrove forest, lighting up all at once and then plunging into darkness, then lighting up all over again – in near-perfect synchrony. Fireflies can be found mostly in warm places across the globe such as Asia and the Americas. Whilst on a trip to Vietnam earlier this year I hopped on a wooden boat and headed across the lake to the riverbank mangroves to watch the spectacular light show. It was amazing to see them light up like tiny little stars in the dark bushes – unfortunately they were not very photogenic!! My phone camera struggled to pick up the small lights. An amazing experience though.
Bioluminescence of the sea is a truly hypnotising wonder of the natural world! The tiny creatures behind the mysterious galaxy like glow on the oceans surface waters are teeny tiny organisms called dinoflagellates. A dinoflagellate’s glow is the result of an enzymatic reaction where oxygen reacts with a substance called luciferin and luciferase enzyme. Some begin to glow brighter when disturbed in the water, mostly by boats or swimming. Bioluminescence can be used to attract prey (Don’t look at the light!!!!) or to warn away predators. The Angler fish has a long dangly spine that lights up to lure in it’s prey. No awards for beauty, however it is widely recognised from the Disney film, Finding Nemo!
A story closer to home – Just a few weeks ago back in June, a Welsh photographer, Alyn Wallace, captured stunning images of rare bioluminescent plankton in the sea at Three Cliffs Bay in Swansea! Yes, Swansea! Who knew…
“I had to pinch myself this morning. Last night I meandered through dark woodlands and waded across a crab infested estuary to get to this spot where bioluminescent plankton were lighting up the shores. Every step and splash I made just lit up with an unreal blue glow. Not long after this shot I stripped off completely and swam under the Milky Way surrounded by the bioluminance, one of the most incredible experiences of my life”
Picture Credit – Alyn Wallace Photography
Beautiful things really do exist closer to home you just have to look for them!! I have visited Wales a couple of times this year and sometimes I can’t believe that such a beautiful place is just a few hours away. I often just find myself simply admiring it’s beauty. The scenery, the sunsets, the waterfalls and now the bioluminescence! Which I must try and see!! It turns out…Wales is not just full of sheep.