Beach-goers may notice blue lights on the water if they spent any time on Mississippi Gulf Coast beaches the past few nights. Scientists say there is no reason to be alarmed about the glow.
"It's not a water quality issue," said Dr. Monty Graham, the Interim Director at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. "It's normal."
Dr. Graham says many marine life produce and emit the light. It is commonly known as bioluminescence, and it occurs in many microorganisms.
"It's most likely dinoflagellates," said Graham. That is a type of marine plankton. Graham said he saw the bioluminscent plankton out on the water yesterday. He noted some of the objects are gelatinous animals creating large balls of light. However, when fish swim through and leave a trail of the light behind, that is the dinoflagellates.
The light the animals produce is blue because blue and green light travels the furthest. That means the further away from the shore, the more blue that will be seen. Usually when closer to shore, the lights are more green in color. The bioluminescence always lives in the ocean, and marine life uses the lights to communicate.
"Here we have such fresh water that usually the species that create the bioluminescence aren't this close to shore," said Graham. "The bioluminesce for all types of reason. Some are like fireflies, looking for mates. Some use the light to startle predators."
Scientists say beach-goer can probably catch a glimpse of the glow in the water until the next big rainstorm washes the organisms away from the shores. The rain will not kill those organisms; it will only push them 5 to 10 miles away from shore in their normal habitat.