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Red Tide Leads to Glowing Bioluminescent on San Diego Beaches (See Pictures)

12 May 2018

A red tide is sparking a light show on some California beaches.

By day the plankton turn the water red, but come nightfall they radiate a blue glow when the algae are disturbed by movement, such as waves crashing on to the shoreline.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography shared a photo on Wednesday showing a radiating blue light coming from the waves near a beach in San Diego. Scripps says this particular red tide in the San Diego area is not known to be toxic, but some people may be sensitive to contact with it. The glow can be seen in full view at night, about two hours after sunset, shining like a liquid version of the Northern Lights.

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Bioluminescence expert Michael Latz says the glow hasn't happened in California in almost five years.

The dinoflagellates are a type of marine phytoplankton. Other regions, including Puget Sound in the Northwest, experience shellfish toxicity, which Native Americans connected to bioluminescence hundreds of years ago.

Bioluminescent phytoplankton create their own light during a red tide in the rolling surf along the coast of Leucadia, California, Sept 29, 2011.

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"In general, the more organisms there are, the brighter the bioluminescence", he added.

"We're getting reports that the bioluminesence runs from La Jolla to Encinitas, but we don't know how big the red tide is", Latz told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday afternoon.

"These are unusual and rare events and they should be enjoyed".

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Red Tide Leads to Glowing Bioluminescent on San Diego Beaches (See Pictures)