Maldives beach becomes sea of stars thanks to bioluminescent phytoplankton

Trick of nature creates spectacle

Christopher Hooton
Monday 20 January 2014 13:52 GMT
Bioluminescent phytoplankton washes up on Maldives beach (Picture: Will Ho)
Bioluminescent phytoplankton washes up on Maldives beach (Picture: Will Ho) (Will Ho)

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Louise Thomas

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It turns out that putting a certain type of plankton under stress results in one of the most stress-relieving sights on the planet, their resultant blue glow creating astral patterns on sea shores.

*Scroll down for the gallery*

The natural phenomenon was captured by Taiwanese photographer Will Ho, who posted pictures of what he thought was 'blue sand' to Flickr.

The surreal appearance of the Maldives beach was actually down to a massive tide of bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum however.

The tiny organisms emit light when stressed, be it by the lapping of waves, the carving action of a surf board or other, creating what looks like a network of stars.

The spectacle was famously used by director Ang Lee in his film Life Of Pi, using the phytoplankton to illuminate his protagonist who was lost at sea. Unsurprisingly, it helped him on the way to an Oscar for the movie's visual effects.

Ho's complete set of photos can be viewed here.

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