Pyrocystis: Painting With Biological Light

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Pyrocystis fusiformis is a large marine bioluminescent algae. When it is disturbed,  it produces a flash of stiking blue bioluminescent light.  In the still images and video above, I have poured some of the culture into a shallow Petri dish and then used a stylus to make paint-like strokes in the liquid media. Captured by the camera, the results are fleeting paintings where the individual trajectories of single cells of the algae can be seen. It’s as if the stylus has become a magical wand that sparkles with the raw energy of our seas. The colour and quality of the light reminds me of Cherenkow Radiation.

2 thoughts on “Pyrocystis: Painting With Biological Light

  1. Hi Simon,

    we are a group of molecular biology students, who will attend a fair. Our aim is it to teach kids a little bit about biology. Therefore we will show them one Pyrocystis species and will provide them with some additional handouts. It would be nice if we could use your pictures, because they are absolutely stunning.

    Best Wishes,

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