The studies of bioluminescence in the Red Sea

A.V. Melnik1, V.V. Melnikov2

1Institute of Marine Biological Research, Russian Federation, Sevastopol, Nakhimov av. 2


2Institute of Natural and Technical Systems, Russian Federation, Sevastopol, Lenin St., 28


DOI: 10.33075/2220-5861-2018-3-93-100

UDC 574.582 (262.5)


   The article presents data on the intensity of bioluminescence in the central part of the Red Sea which were taken in the 42nd voyage of the R / V “Akademik Boris Petrov” from 02.03 to 03.03.2017. Despite a large number of visual observations of bioluminescence in the Red Sea, instrumental measurements in the central Red Sea are very few.

   For the first time these measurements were carried out in the 1960s and 1970s by Soviet researchers from the Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Institute of Biology of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR using the first  biophysical  bathyphotometers .

   Now the Red and Arabian seas have become the subject of intensive research, due to the rapid growth of the “red tides”, which grow due to  massive development of bioluminescent phytoplankton. For this purpose, remote sensing data from the ocean, the results of direct measurements of the water bioluminescence  by stationary sounding stations located at the coastal zone are used. With remote sensing data,  measurements in situ and modeling information, will provide decision makers and stakeholders in this area tools to manage coastal resources. For example, with enough warning the aquaculture industry can mobilize in advance of an outbreak, moving fishery cages to “safer” regions before outburst of bioluminescent phytoplankton. These studies are actively carried out by the Red Sea Research Center (RSRC) of the University of Science and Technology of King Abdullah (KAUST), the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Oman and the Cultural Center of Sultan Qaboos with the support of leading Western scientific centers.

   Investigations in 42-nd cruise R/V “ Akademic Boris Petrov” were conducted from 02.03. to 03.03. 2017 with the help of hydrobiophysical complex “Salpa M” in the way of multiple bathiphotometric soundings in the Red sea central part photic layer. High effectivity of the device permitted to measure bioluminescence not only at night time but at the day as well. Besides intensity of bioluminescence complex “Salpa M’ measured water temperature and electric conductivity at a horizon of the device submerging with measurement discreteness 0,2 m. At the day time at the stations complex was used for measuring photosynthetically active radiation (FAR). Totally at 4 stations from 5 to 10 soundings were conducted with the rate 1.2m.c and interval 2.5 – 3.0 min. Bioluminescence intensity was transferred to the absolute values of irradiation summary power (10–12 Вт•см–2•л–1), using appropriate transfer coefficients, obtained using radioluminescent etalon light sources.

   However, there is very few data on the  water column luminosity in the central part of the Red Sea. Investigations carried out in this region in March with an interval of 40 years showed that the luminosity of the waters increased almost by an order of magnitudes: in 1981, the average luminosity value of water was about 120 10–12 W•sm–2•l–1, and in 2017 the average luminosity value was 1250 10–12 W•sm–2•l–1 .

   It is clear that these data are extremely small for accurate estimation of the current changes in the ecosystem of the sea, but it allows us to make an assumption that corresponds to the data of coastal measurements, testifying to the fact that it is the result of the climate changes, the intensity of bioluminescence increased, apparently due to Noctiluca abundance.

Keywords: bioluminescent potential, plankton community, hydrological characteristics, Red Sea.

Full text in PDF (RUS)


  1. Tokarev Yu. N. Fundamentals of biophysical ecology of aquatic organisms. Sevastopol: EKOSI-Hydrophysics. 2006. P. 342.
  2. Tokarev Yu. N., Evstigneev P. V., Mashukova O. V. Planktonic bioluminescents of the World ocean: species diversity, characteristics of light emission in normal and anthropogenic conditions. Simferopol: N. Orianda. 2016. P. 347.
  3. Bioluminescence of the ocean / I. I. Gitelzon, L. A. Levin, R. N. utyushev [et al.]. SPb: Hydrometeoizdat. 1992. P. 283.
  4. Tokarev Yu. N., Vasilenko V. I., Zhuk V. F. New hydro-bio-physical complex for Express assessment of the state of coastal ecosystems // Materials of the XI international conference. scientific and technical Conf. Modern methods and means of Oceanological research (Moscow, November 25-27, 2009). Moscow: publishing house of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2009, P. 23-27.
  5. Biophysical methods of hydrobiological research. Part I. Methods for studying the bioluminescent potential of pelagial / Yu. N. Tokarev, E. p. Bityukov, V. I. Vasilenko [et al.] / / Ecological safety of coastal and shelf zones and integrated use of shelf resources. Sat. nauchn. Tr. Issue 2 (7) (global oceanic observation system of the Black sea: contact measurements. Contribution of Ukraine to Black Sea GOOS) NAS of Ukraine, MGI, OF Inbyum. Sevastopol, 2002. P. 111-121.
  6. The bioluminescence field as an indicator of the spatial structure and physiological state of the planktonic community at the Mediterranean Sea basin / Yu.N. Tokarev, E.P. Bityukov, R. Williams [et al.] // The eastern Mediterranean as a laboratory basin for the assessment of contrasting ecosystems. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999. Р. 407–416.
  7. Aronsohn M.D. Studying Bioluminescent Blooms in the Arabian Sea // State of planet. December 4, 2017 URL: (date of request: 13.03.2018).
  8. Stavorinus J.S. 1796. Voyages to the East-Indies… // Translated from the original Dutch, by S. H. Wilcocke… London, G. G. and J. Robinson, 1798. Vol. I. p. 280. Vol. III. P. 282–284.
  9. Staples R.F. The distribution and characteristics of the surface bioluminescence in the Oceans // Technical Report US Naval Oceanographic Office Washington. 1966. (date of request: 13.03.2018).
  10. Bogdanova L. K. Hydrological conditions in the Red sea and the Gulf of Aden according to observations of the “Academician A. Kovalevsky”e/s. In: Oceanological research, X section of the mgg program, Moscow: Nauka, 1966, no. 15, P. 186.
  11. E. P. Delalo Distribution of zooplankton bio-mass in the Red sea and the Gulf of Aden in the winter of 1961-1962. In: Oceanological research, Moscow: Nauka, 1966, No. 15, P. 131-136.
  12. Gordeeva K. T. On the species composition and distribution features of cor-Roda in the Red sea. 1971. Issue 24, P. 126-141.
  13. Moryakova V. K. Composition and quantitative distribution of zooplankton in the Arabian sea during the summer monsoon. 1971. Issue 24, P. 141-161.
  14. Rudyakov Y. A., Voronina N. M. Plankton and bioluminescence in the Red sea and Gulf of Aden // Oceanology. 1967. Vol. 6. No. 7. P. 1076-1080.


If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Translate »

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: