Plankton are best known for their greatest hits: producing organic compounds, being devoured by krill, drifting aimlessly on the ocean's upper layer. You've read about those ditties so many times, you might think you've seen all plankton have to offer. They don't play catch, they don't go outside when you ask them to, and they most certainly won't retrieve the newspaper. What are they good for?
How dare you besmirch plankton! They are beautiful! They are complex! They are surprising! For example, certain species of plankton are bioluminescent; they produce a substance that glows in the dark. That process is what you see in the photograph above, taken by Pooyan Shadpoor, a member of National Geographic's Your Shot community. The effect is beautiful to the human eye, but is actually intended to scare away predators. Plankton: they survive with style.
Bioluminescence occurs in a variety of phytoplankton and animal plankton, and can be green, orange, red, and of course blue. Because it's Monday, spend some time scrolling through a Google image search for "bioluminescent plankton."
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