Since Thursday, Mumbai’s Juhu beach has delighted several locals by suddenly displaying a series of sparkling neon blue lights that light up its waters, a phenomenon popularly known as bioluminescence. Often seen in other parts of the world, this is the first time this spectacular vision has been sighted in Mumbai.
Although these “blue waves” had been witnessed by locals earlier, they only made news when two third-year BSc zoology students from Bhavan’s college disbelievingly visited the beach after receiving a call, and some video footage of the bioluminescent waves from a friend on Sunday. They were left awestruck: “Wherever we placed our feet, the surrounding area started glowing. It was like watching an animation film,” they said in a DNA report.
One of the students, Nilesh Mane attempted to capture the sight, and claimed that it was quite a task. “This was the most difficult thing as it was not possible to spot the glow from the road due to the lights. Hence, we had to move towards the Danda side, which was dark and we could see the bioluminescence clearly,” he said, also adding that he had to wade chest-deep into the water, to click images. Mane also believes that the El Niño effect could be one reason for the bioluminescence showing up in Mumbai now (although it has been witnessed in Lakswadeep earlier).
After researching on the Internet, the students confirmed that the blue waves were caused by phytoplanktons, or tiny organisms that produce small flashes of light on being washed ashore, due to a series of chemical reactions that are triggered by the activation of a specific protein called luciferase. "They have a tail-like structure called flagella that produces light when disturbed, stressed or in high-pollution levels and will give a light flash lasting a fraction of a second. We identified the likely species to be noctiluca scintillans," said Abir Jain, Mane’s companion.
Mane and Jain stayed on the beach from 8pm to 2:30 am, collecting water samples and taking pictures. They are planning to publish a scientific paper, and their discovery has earned them praise from the vice principal of the college. "As soon as these students informed me on Monday about this activity, we went to the beach stretch that evening but did not see any luminescence. We have asked the locals to alert us when they spot it again. I appreciate the work done by these students as they are doing this research even as they are appearing for their ongoing internal examinations," he said.
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