New Zealand’s North Island shores lit up with stunning ‘aurora of the sea’ luminous plankton

Bioluminescence in blooms of plankton happens when they try to shake off predators

<p>File: Bioluminescence is a phenomenon caused by certain kinds of plankton that glow in the dark </p>

File: Bioluminescence is a phenomenon caused by certain kinds of plankton that glow in the dark

New Zealand’s north island has lately been a delight for visitors who have witnessed a breathtaking phenomenon at night, dubbed the “aurora of the sea” by photographer Sajith Muraleedharan.

Mr Muraleedharan, who captured the phenomenon of bioluminescence in the city of Napier, told The Guardian newspaper that one can see it “every time a wave comes in”.

“It’s amazing – a lot of people were there, a lot of people with families, some of them were swimming. It is indeed a great thing to witness,” he added.

Bioluminescence occurs when blooms of microscopic plankton glow in the dark so they can avoid predators.

“Dinoflagellates [single-celled organisms] produce this light when disturbed, and will give a light flash lasting a fraction of a second – disturbing the predator trying to consume them,” Karl Safi, an algal ecologist at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, told The Guardian.

In New Zealand, several “biohunting” groups have been formed by enthusiasts who are always on the book out for the stunning “aurora of the sea”.

Mr Muraleedharan uploaded some of the photos of the breathtaking phenomenon on his Instagram page.

The New Zealand Herald reported in January this year that two men — Grant Birley and Matthew Davison — had been working for the past two years to find the extremely tiny animals that cause the glow.

“It was clearly visible to the naked eye which made for a great spectacle,” Mr Birley told the Herald.

“It’s also called the aurora of the sea – like the Aurora Australis you see in the sky,” said Mr Muraleedharan.

Mr Birley said the “marine aurora” was “clearly visible to the naked eye which made for a great spectacle”.

The Herald listed a number of beaches where the phenomenon can be observed. These are Matakatia Bay, Tindalls Bay, Little Manly, Big Manly, Arkles Bay, Stanmore Bay, Red Beach, Mahurangi Regional Park, Muriwai, Piha and Anawhata Beach.

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