Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MSI: Bermuda's Bio-luminesence

Perched in silhouette around the corner from Whalebone bay, the Marine Science Interns watched last night as the tranquil evening Bermudian waters, just barely kissed by the light of the moon, began to glow as if stars had fallen momentarily into the sea. Like clockwork, Ododontosyllis enopla, or 'glow worms,' spawn three days and just over 44 minutes post sunset after every full moon from May to September in Bermuda. Last night was three days after the full moon. Seemingly commanded by the moon in near perfect synchronization, the glow worms’ bio-luminescent spawn dotted the dark, still waters like tiny fireworks.

These glow worms live together in tubes in shallow water, often found in sea grass beds or sandy areas, preferring to settle on hard substrate. They have only been observed coming out of their tubes to spawn.
It is this bio-luminescent spawning that the Marine Science Interns witnessed last night as the females swam in spirals up to the surface, releasing their gametes and lighting up an isolated patch of water while males followed soon after, illuminating sharp, straight paths through the females’ spirals with the release of their gametes. Bio-luminescence is the release of a living organism's energy in the form of light caused by a chemical reaction. Unlike florescence, bio-luminescence is not caused by electromagnetic radiation or due to absorption and refraction of differing light wavelengths.

Much is yet to be learned about Ododontosyllis enopla. Their bio-luminescent behavior and predictability is still very much a mystery, attracting many spectators each month during the summer.

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