Bioluminescent Bacteria So Bright, They Show Up In Satellite Images

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

A glowing patch of the Indian Ocean the size of Connecticut was not known to science until 2005, even though it has been seen by sailors and even mentioned in a novel. Scientists had ignored accounts of this glowing patch because they believed it would be impossible to have bacteria at such dense concentrations over such a large area.  One scientist wanted to investigate this, however, and found the record from a ship that said it crossed the milky sea in 1995.  The scientist looked for satellite images taken over the area the ship described during that night, and found that a large area off Africa appeared to be glowing for three nights around that time.  Scientists believe the bacteria isVibrio harveyi, but still do not know how they survive in such a dense congregation.

It is amazing that no one ever noticed this on satellite images before!


Photo credit: Steven Miller
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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.