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Scientists Have Solved The Mystery Of The Glow Of Sea Waves

Scientists Have Solved The Mystery Of The Glow Of Sea Waves

European physicists have found an explanation for the mechanism of bioluminescence in single-celled marine organisms dinoflagellates, causing a mysterious glow of night waves. The results of the study are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Scientists from the UK, Germany, and France have shown that the single-celled organism Pyrocystis lunula produces a flash of light when its cell wall is deformed by mechanical forces. The authors of the study developed an experimental technique for micromanipulation and high-speed visualization at the level of individual cells. By systematically changing the parameters, they found that the brightness of the flash depends on both the depth of deformation and the speed at which it occurs.

Research explains that a single-celled marine organism generates light in response to mechanical irritation as a result of a viscoelastic response, an effect that occurs in materials such as liquids with a polymer suspension. In the case of dinoflagellates, this mechanism, according to scientists, is most likely associated with ion channels, which are specialized proteins distributed on the cell membrane.

When the membrane is loaded, these channels open, allowing calcium to move between cells, triggering a biochemical cascade that produces light.

"Despite decades of scientific research in the field of biochemistry, the physical mechanism by which the flow of liquid starts the production of light remained unclear," quoted in a press release from the University of Cambridge, the words of the head of the study, Professor of the Department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics Raymond Goldstein.

"Our results show the physical mechanism by which fluid flow triggers light production, and how elegant decision-making can be at the level of a single cell," says first author Dr. Maziyar Jalaal.

Scientists have found that light intensity is low when cell compression is slow or when cell wall deformation is small, regardless of how fast the compression is performed. Bright luminosity is observed only when the amplitude and speed of mechanical action are high. The authors developed a mathematical model that explains the observations.

At the next stage, the researchers plan to move to a quantitative analysis of the distribution of forces between individual cells in the fluid flow.

Bioluminescence — the ability of the living organisms to glow-has long been known to biologists. The most famous example is the fireflies in the forest. This property is used by animals to protect, attack, and attract mates for mating. Dinoflagellates use light to scare off predators.

The phenomenon caused by luminous organisms located in the surface layers of water is called the glow of the sea. Every few years, this glow on certain coasts becomes especially bright, creating fantastic pictures. Recently, this phenomenon was observed off the coast of southern California.