Stars of the sea: bioluminescent phytoplankton is a photographers dream!

It’s kind of like the Southern Lights of the sea, and it’s one of the most beautiful phenomena in the world.

It's a photo-op like no other, when the phytoplankton mass together on the shoreline and create a pool of blue, glittering light. Phytoplankton are single-celled creatures that are somewhere in between an animal and a plant – let's just say they're living 'organisms'. When a good amount of rain passes through the phytoplankton wash into shallow waters, and a chemical reaction illuminates them. This quality is used for many different things, a call for help, a defense mechanism, or a way to recognize a mate.

Recently, in South Tasmania, Blackpaw Photography managed to capture the beauty of this bioluminescent reaction. In South Arm, the beach was blue for kilometres and flashing for most of the evening. Every time the waves lapped ashore the water lit up in a spectacular silent show

When this happens you can dip your hand in the water and watch the colours shoot and spark off around you. You can even flick the water into the air and see the light fly – like something out of Avatar.

There is, however, a downside to this beautiful natural occurrence. The phytoplankton are an introduced species that are notorious for killing fish. Because the organisms have no chloroplasts, they have to get food by eating other marine life. Usually they will feast on other phytoplankton, but it has been known to eat small crustaceans and tiny fish fry.

While introduced species are generally not something to celebrate, it's hard to look past the incredible beauty of bioluminescent phytoplankton. And if you've ever seen it before, it will take your breath away. I've seen it on a handful of occasions in my life, and I still can't believe my eyes.

[Check out Blackpaw Photography's Facebook page here!]

Matthew Holz also got some great shots, including this photo that created further interest in finding out what the lights were.

And more...

[Check out Matthew Holz Photography on Facebook here!]

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