Bioluminescence Demonstrations

One of the most impressive demonstrations of bioluminescence is also the easiest. Dinoflagellates, the most common sources of bioluminescence at the sea surface, are readily maintained and grown almost anywhere. They produce bright bioluminescence when agitated. The following instructions describe how to give a most impressive demonstration!

Suggested Demonstrations and Simple Experiments with Dinoflagellates

If you don't live by the ocean, where you can see dinoflagellate bioluminescence in its natural setting, the next best thing is to obtain your own culture of dinoflagellates. Refer to the dinoflagellate culturing web page for instructions on how to obtain and grow your own luminescent dinoflagellates.

The best demonstration is the old shake-em-up technique. Take your flask of cells and swirl it! Just make sure it is during the dark phase of their day/night cycle. If you take dinoflagellates out of their day phase and place them in the dark, nothing will happen. The bioluminescence system is controlled by a biological rhythm; light emission is turned off during the day.


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Bioluminescence Demonstrations / Updated 10/10/99 / Send email