The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


The student news site of Corona del Mar High School


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Dancing Dolphins in Bioluminescent Waters

Many have just been treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Newport Beach: dolphins swimming around in the glimmering bioluminescent ocean waters. But why has the ocean suddenly started glowing? 

According to multiple news sources, the bioluminescence is caused when phytoplankton called dinoflagellates group up and populate shallow coastal waters. When interviewing Ms. Walters, CdM’s AP Biology teacher, she explains that, “…You’ll notice that [the bioluminescence] happens when there is a disturbance…like the waves will crash, or [the] dolphins will move through, and then they’ll all give off that light at the same time.” In addition to this, she said that dinoflagellates belong to the pyrophyte family (-pyro meaning fire, -phyte meaning plant). She also describes the way the dinoflagellates influence bioluminescence. “They’re called that because they have that bioluminescent ability, so they can metabolize and break down chemicals that give off that light.” 

In this case, the dolphins playing around at night and the waves crashing most likely caused the disturbance, resulting in the phytoplankton giving off the iridescent blue light. When doing further research, it was found that these phytoplankton populate local coastal waters, which explains why this fascinating occurrence ensued. 

It’s no mystery that students at CdM love visiting the beach. Junior Emmy Lallande comments, “I like going to the Santa Ana River Jetties.” Another junior, Bailey Kuo, also mentions that she “…loves visiting Crystal Cove beach. The vibes there are great!” When asked what amazes them most about the ocean, Lallande says, “…how much we don’t know about it despite the research and technology of today.” This much is true: the ocean is full of unsolved mysteries and unique life like the bioluminescence. 

Students who wish to witness this natural phenomenon should be sure to visit beaches after 10-11pm– the later in the night, the better. They should be on the lookout for any movement in the water that would cause the luminous phytoplankton to glow. Or they can take the simple route and follow the dolphins!


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