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Glowing plankton giving bio-light show in local waters

Posted at 4:10 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 23:34:37-05

A video showing our local waters appearing to glow is causing quite the stir on social media.

Video posted by local fishing guide Rene Lopez, showing flashes of blue light appearing in the water from Port Aransas down to South Padre Island is being widely shared online.

Bioluminescence is full effect tonight. Video is grainy due to the dense fog

Posted by Rene Lopez on Monday, February 4, 2019


“I was coming into the marina, and I turned around and looked out the side of my boat and saw the prop wash and this glowing blue water,” Lopez said. “I see it almost every year, but every year is different and this year was really intense.”

Deana Erdner, an associate professor of Marine Science at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute says the glow is caused by bioluminescent dinoflagellates, a group of single-celled algae commonly referred to as “glowing plankton.”

Erdner says the glowing occurs when the plankton are disturbed.

“It’s basically the equivalent of being bumped, Erdner says. “If a person swims through the water and that makes the algae move or if a boat prop goes through, it causes the water to move which causes the algae to move which sort of physically disturbs them, and then you get this production of light, or light flash. That’s the bioluminescence.”

Coastal Bend residents have been seeing the glowing plankton for a few days, but Erdner says it won’t be around for long.

“Get out and enjoy it while it’s here,” Erdner says.  “These things don’t happen all the time, but they’re amazingly beautiful when they do.”

The algae bloom can have a reddish hue to it during the day time, but Erdner confirms it isn’t red tide, and is not harmful.