WATCH: Beaches glow blue in Australia, here's why
Monday, March 20, 2017, 8:33 AM - On the beaches of Tasmania, it's not just the stars that will dazzle you at night.
Visitors to Preservation Bay in Australia's southern island state have been revelling in the glowing blue waters off the coast, with a good selection in the video up above.
It's not magic, but single-celled bioluminescent plankton, specifically Noctiluca scintillans. The brief flashes of light come from a chemical reaction given off by the plankton, such that almost any disturbance in the water results in those lovely blue flashes, which University of Tasmania professor Gustaaf Hallegraeff told ABC News was likely a defense mechanism to startle predators.
Unfortunately, the phenomenon has a figurative sting in the tail. Hallegraeff told the broadcaster that though the plankton are harmless, in large numbers they out-compete many species for food.
"This is an organism that eats other species and so if there's a huge amount of it, and basically it behaves like a vacuum cleaner and it eats away all the other plankton," he told ABC last week. "So we have heard for example ... complaints from shellfish farmers that after this noctilucal bloom went through, suddenly the shellfish were hungry because there was nothing left to eat."
The phenomenon's continued expansion to areas further south in recent decades could also be yet another marker of climate change.
"We have some evidence that ocean currents and the warming of the oceans have contributed to it," the professor told ABC.
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