Friday, February 8, 2013

Nature Comes Out in Support of National Football - Panama Marea Roja!

Last night the Marea Roja, Panama’s national football team tied Costa Rica 2-2 in their struggle to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. 

And this morning it seems that even nature is trying to show support for the team.  Go Panama!


We had a great view from the lab as this intense algal bloom developed along the edge of the causeway. 

We started to see it at low tide in the very shallow water.

Noctiluca occurs in shallow water all around the world

Looking at the cells through the micrscope it's easy to identify the single-celled alga Noctiluca, a dinoflagellate.

This big cells are giants among single-celled organisms - reaching up to 2 mm across. You can usually only see one of the flagella (which it uses to feed)  moving slowly back and forth across the cell. They look like pigtails.

Unlike a lot of dinoflagellates which are often highly toxic, Noctiluca appears not to make toxins.  Nevertheless the blooms can secrete high concentrations of ammonia and deprive the local water of oxygen, so these blooms are sometimes associated with fish kills.  Luckily we haven’t seen any dead fish. 

The orange color of our bloom dissipated by the end of the day. But we still had the chance to check out their impressive bioluminescence.  

We had fun shaking tubes of algae in the darkroom.
The blue-green glow was bright enough to photograph
You can see the individual cells glowing as
waves hit the rocks at night!  

Photos by Julia Schmidt-Petersen and Rebecca Rissanen

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