Assessing Fish Stocks With Bioluminescence

Written by on December 17, 2014 in Marine Life

New research from the National Oceanography Center (NOC) demonstrates a new method for forecasting bioluminescence, which could be beneficial for monitoring movement in the oceans.

Bioluminescent organisms. Photo credit: NOAA Ocean Explorer, Islands in the Stream 2002.

Bioluminescent organisms. Photo credit: NOAA Ocean Explorer, Islands in the Stream 2002.

The current method of predicting when and how much bioluminescence will be in a particular area involves using relationships between bioluminescence and other biochemical environmental variables. This study, led by Dr. Charlotte Marcinko of the NOC, is the first to examine how bioluminescence could be predicted by modelling the organisms themselves.

The study simulates seasonal changes in the abundance of a bioluminescent organism, dinoflagellates, using a simple ecological model.

Bioluminescent organisms emit flashes of light through chemical reactions. These reactions can be triggered by simple movement in the water around them, caused by fish swimming by. If there’s enough movement and there are enough organisms, bioluminescent organisms can give the impression of a constant glow.

“I once went on a cruise and saw bioluminescence lighting up the boats wake…I just looked at it and I couldn’t help but wonder what caused it,” Dr. Charlotte Marcinko explained in a news release. “A lot of people say it is mystical, I can see why they think that….people also think it’s rare, it actually isn’t, it happens nearly everywhere in the ocean.”

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Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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