The Colour of Sound: Whale Song

Pyrocystis fusiformis is a large marine bioluminescent algae. During the night, its cells produce a stiking blue light when disturbed, perhaps as a defence mechanism to startle predators.

These are some very early tests for a new project with Dr Milton Mermikides and Professor Tony Myatt from the University of Surrey. We’re playing the algae sounds and music and measuring their response. I’m pleased to report that they responded to  the various tones that we played to them by emitting bioluminescence. In the second test, we played the Pyrocystis the songs of  Humpback Whales and I’m delighted to report that they “heard” their songs and responded by emitting ephemeral flashes of luminescence. There’s something quite sublime in watching some of the ocean’s smallest life forms “hearing” and responding to the songs produced by some of its largest inhabitants

3 thoughts on “The Colour of Sound: Whale Song

  1. Pingback: MiltonLineThe Colour of Sound: Whale Song | Exploring The Invisible |

  2. Hi! I am a microbiologist from Spain. I’m involved in a research project trying to elucidate the influence of audible sound on bacteria. I found this wonderful post of yours and was wondering whether you could share with us the conditions in which you performed this experiment or art piece 😉 Even though this organism is an eukaryote, I’m still really interested in the details. I’d love to know the frequencies range you used, for instance! 🙂 By the way, your photos and overall work is just amazing!

    • Thanks for this. This was a collaboration with with someone in a music department called Tony Myatt. He brought along a portable vibration speaker and this is what we used. Sorry but I’ve no idea what frequencies he’s used. Best wishes, Simon

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