Mosquito Bay Glows With Millions Of Bioluminescent Plankton

Brilliance | Dec. 17, 2017

Have you ever wanted to kayak in the glow of the moonlight? Well, this Caribbean island just off the coast of Puerto Rico called Vieques can do you one better. This little gem is home to Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. That's right: it's a bay with glow-in-the-dark water. How is that possible? The water is full of a species of plankton with special properties that cause them to blaze with blue light. Eat your heart out, fireflies.

Thar She Glows!

Allow us to introduce you to Pyrodinium bahamense, the little critters responsible for lighting up Mosquito Bay. Categorized as dinoflagellates, a type of marine unicellular plankton, their name translates to "swirling fire." Whenever they're agitated by the touch of water currents or even by bumping into each other, they produce a light that spreads to more than 100 times their size. Despite the fact that Pyrodinium bahamense isn't physiologically the brightest bioluminescent species out there, Guinness World Records named this Bio Bay the brightest in the world in 2008. That's because Mosquito Bay has the largest concentration of these glowing sea creatures—about 700,000 per gallon of water.

Don't let the name turn you off: it's not called Mosquito Bay because it's overrun by bloodsucking insects. It's actually named after "El Mosquito," a small ship owned by Roberto Cofresí... better known as "El Pirata Cofresí." Yes, you read that correctly: he's a pirate. Known for his Robin Hood-esque "good thief" pirate practices, Cofresí often hid El Mosquito in the bioluminescent bay since it connected to the ocean through a small inlet.

A Dimming Light

Like many natural, beautiful things, Mosquito Bay is fragile. Back in the day, locals swam in the bioluminescent water whenever they pleased, but the recent influx of visitors is believed to be slowly affecting the bay's overall brightness. All the shampoos, lotions, and perfumes we use seem to damaging the dinoflagellates. So unfortunately, you can't take a dive into the glowing bay. But you can dip your hands and feet in the water from your kayak! That's still pretty good in our book.

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