"LIGHT 'N LIFE"

 

Dinoflagellate (Pyrocystis)

Photograph by Peter Parks

© 2001 by Image Quest 3-D
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There is reason to believe that even the earliest life forms that inhabited our ancient seas, some 600,000,000 years ago, regularly gave off light. The production of light may originally have been a bi-product of metabolism rather than a sophisticated device for defence or courtship. These microscopic dinoflagellates - single celled cousins to diatoms - abound in tropical and subtropical waters.

These Pyrocystis species from the Atlantic waters off Bermuda cause warm surface waters to glow brilliantly as waves break, boats churn and bow waves roll. Here two individuals gently rub shoulders, there outer membranes displaying purple structural colouration while their inner nuclear masses harbour symbiotic algal cells and stream cytoplasm around the two interlocking orbs of activity.

This short article was written by Peter Parks

© 2001 by Image Quest 3-D
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2001 by Image Quest 3-D
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