In situ measurements of bioluminescence response of Gonyaulax spinifera to various mechanical stimuli


A conspicuous bioluminescence during nighttime was reported in an aquaculture farm in the Cochin estuary due to Gonyaulax spinifera bloom on March 20, 2020. In situ measurements on bioluminescence was carried out during nighttime to quantify the response of G. spinifera to various mechanical stimuli. The bioluminescence intensity (BI) was measured using Glowtracka, an advanced single channel sensor, attached to a Conductivity–Temperature–Depth Profiler. In steady environment, without any external stimuli, the bioluminescence generated due to the movement of fishes and shrimps in the water column was not detected by the sensor. However, stimuli such as a hand splash, oar and swimming movements, and a mixer could generate measurable bioluminescence responses. An abundance of ~ 2.7 × 106 cells L−1 of G. spinifera with exceptionally high chlorophyll a of 25 mg m−3 was recorded. The BI in response to hand splash was recorded as high as 1.6 × 1011 photons cm−2 s−1. Similarly, BI of ~ 1–6 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1 with a cumulative bioluminescence of ~ 2.51 × 1012 photons cm−2 (for 35 s) was recorded when there is a mixer with a constant force of 494 N/800 rpm min−1. The response of G. spinifera was spontaneous with no time lapse between application of stimuli and the bioluminescence response. Interestingly, in natural environment, application of stimulus for longer time periods (10 min) does not lower the bioluminescence intensity due to the replenishment of water thrusted in by the mixer from surrounding areas. We also demonstrated that the bioluminescence intensity decreases with increase in distance from the source of stimuli (mixer) (av. 1.84 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1 at 0.2 m to av. 0.05 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1 at 1 m). The BI was highest in the periphery of the turbulent wake generated by the stimuli (av. 3.1 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1) compared to the center (av. 1.8 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1). When the stimuli was applied vertically down, the BI decreased from 0.2 m (0.3 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1) to 0.5 m (0.10 × 1010 photons cm−2 s−1). Our study demonstrates that the BI of G. spinifera increases with increase in mechanical stimuli and decreases with increase in distance from the stimuli.

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Authors are thankful for the support and facilities provided by the Director, Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR)—National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, and Scientist-in Charge of Regional Centre, NIO, Kochi. Authors are also thankful to the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)—Naval Research Board (NRB), Govt. of India, for financial support through Grant-in-aid project, GAP 3157. Authors are grateful to Dr. NV Madhu, Senior Scientist, CSIR-NIO, RCK for the laboratory facilities and Dr. Arunpandi N (Senior Project Associate), CSIR-NIO, RCK, for SEM analysis. This in NIO contribution number 6677.


This work is funded by DRDO—Naval Research Board, Govt. of India, Grant-in-aid project, GAP-3157.

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VCR contributed to data collection; data analysis; and writing original draft, PA responsible for conceptualization, funding, supervision, and writing original draft, AP and MIP contributed to data collection and data analysis, MKR was involved in conceptualization and data collection, AAS contributed to data collection and data curation, and CMF was involved in data analysis.

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Correspondence to A. Parvathi.

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Vishal, C.R., Parvathi, A., Anil, P. et al. In situ measurements of bioluminescence response of Gonyaulax spinifera to various mechanical stimuli. Aquat Ecol (2021).

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  • Dinoflagellate
  • Gonyaulax spinifera
  • Bioluminescence
  • Mechanical stimuli
  • Glowtracka
  • Cochin