Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Glowing dolphins dance through bioluminescent algae

Charlotte Edwards and Donna Coutts, April 29, 2020 7:00PM Kids News

Print Article

The glowing dolphins swimming through algae in California, US. Picture: Still from a video by Patrick Coyne media_cameraThe glowing dolphins swimming through algae in California, US. Picture: Still from a video by Patrick Coyne


Reading level: green

Glowing dolphins have been seen surfing through bioluminescent* algae.

Photographer Patrick Coyne was lucky enough to see the dancing dolphins with his own eyes and shared video on social media so we can all witness the stunning scene.

Coyne first learned about the dolphin phenomenon* on TV.

He then went on a local nightly tour off the coast of California’s Newport Beach in the US until he managed to see the rare sight himself.

Coyne wrote on Instagram: “We were out for a few hours and on our final stretch back we finally had 2 Dolphins pop up to start the incredible glowing show.

“A few minutes later and we were greeted by a few more which was insane. I’m honestly still processing this all …”

The photographer also explained it was quite tricky videoing the event and he relied on a bit of luck and perfect conditions.

Dolphins dance through glowing waves

This story was first published on The Sun and is republished here with permission.

Some animals, fungi and microbes (such as bacteria) can glow.

They do this because a natural chemical reaction happens that releases energy in the form of light.

Many marine creatures are bioluminescent, such as some jellyfish, fish, sea stars, sharks and algae. Fireflies are also bioluminescent.

Glowing waves like those the dolphins danced through were seen along Southern California beaches this month and were caused by microscopic* organisms called dinoflagellates, which are a type of plankton. Not all dinoflagellates glow, but those that do are thought to have evolved this way to startle and scare off predators.

media_cameraPeople watching waves glow with blue bioluminescence from an algae bloom in the Pacific Ocean on a beach at San Diego, California, US on April 27, 2020, in San Diego. Picture: AP

Scientists have used genes* from bioluminescent mushrooms to grow glowing plants.

There are no naturally occurring bioluminescent plants.

Results of the research by a company called Planta were released this week.

Glowing plants could be used to help scientists study the inner workings of plants and how they respond to stresses such as extreme temperatures, drought or pests.

PicGarry/Maguire of these luminous Mycena lampadis mushrooms in his underground nursery , known as the worm hole. plants glowing fungi fungus mushroom media_cameraFungi such as these Mycena lampadis mushrooms are bioluminescent. Picture: Garry Maguire

There are 36 dolphin species and they can be found in every ocean and some freshwater rivers.

They are aquatic carnivorous* mammals that mostly eat fish and squid.

Orcas are the largest dolphin species.

Dolphins are social animals that live in pods of about 12 and play and communicate with each other constantly. They can sometimes form massive pods if required, such as to avoid predators.

Aerial shot of a squad, school of dolphins cruising in the warm tropical water media_cameraA squad or super pod of dolphins. Picture: iStock

They use echolocation* to navigate the ocean and find prey, which involves creating sound waves to bounce off objects so they can work out things like sizes of objects and distance.

An echolocating dolphin can make up to 1000 clicking noises a second

Source: National Geographic


  • bioluminescent: natural glow made by a living thing
  • phenomenon: something we notice
  • microscopic: can only be seen with a microscopic
  • genes: information passed from one generation of a living thing to the next
  • carnivorous: eats meat
  • echolocation: sending out a sound and use its bounce or echo back to help locate yourself or something else


Mushrooms light up the night

Lipstick-pink lake a hit for selfies

First-known case of dolphin adopting whale calf

Massive stringy clone colony filmed off WA


  1. Name three living things that are naturally luminescent.
  2. What causes the creature to emit light?
  3. What would be the point of making glowing plants?
  4. What do dolphins eat?
  5. How do dolphins navigate?


1. Bioluminescent Art
Create a visually spectacular art piece of an underwater scene with the bioluminescent element. It could be the dolphins lighting up or other sea creatures mentioned in the Kids News article. You could use whatever materials you have available at home such as paint, crayon, texta and the glowing aspect could be done with glitter, foil or any other shiny material.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts

2. Extension
Work with a partner and brainstorm some other ideas that scientists could work on using bioluminescent mushrooms to make things glow. What would you like to glow in your backyard?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social

The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What would you like to see glowing? Why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in science