Snow glows in the Russian Arctic. a reason? Little sea creatures. – National Geographic

A day later, Emelianenko placed a luminous snow globe under a stereomicroscope to search for the cause of the bioluminescence. She unsuccessfully flicked a needle into the remnant of the ball while waiting for it to dissolve completely. Until she saw a few small one-eyed crabs in the tender contents of the Petri dish. When these aquatic crustaceans were challenged, they released a faint blue colour.

Read also: The deep sea shark is one of the largest bioluminescent animals in the world

This is probably the first official explanation for the Arctic snowflake. Researchers have observed this phenomenon before, but it has not been properly investigated.

One-eyed crab life

One-eyed crustaceans are small crustaceans whose size does not exceed a few millimeters, which are as long as a few grains of sand in a row. “They’re sea bugs,” explains marine biologist Stephen Haddock, who studies deep-sea plankton at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. “They are small and very common, and countless animals eat them.”

They get little attention and are rarely seen in movies or on television (with the one-eyed plankton crabs from SpongeBob SquarePants An exception proves the rule), but it is suspected that the biomass in the sea consists mostly of one-eyed crustaceans. They are passive swimmers, which means that they cannot swim upstream. This particular species of crustacean is one-eyed (Mitredia Longa) floats at sea in the Canadian Hudson Strait, off the US state of Maine and in the Arctic.

but the mitridia Ksenia Kosopukova, an expert on Arctic zooplankton at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, said she has no business along the White Sea coast. It is usually found in the sea. It is between 25 and 100 meters during the day and rises at night (which is almost constantly in winter) to less than a meter below sea level, Kosobukova explains.

According to Kosopukova, what should happen is that the crustaceans got into a strong current. Twice a day at high tide, the icy waters of the White Sea (and everything that lives in it) wash over cracks in the ice and snow. Weak swimmers like one-eyed crabs can’t escape this.

The tidal current may be stronger than usual on December 1, the day the phenomenon was first observed. The new moon is approaching and it will take another three days before the moon passes perigee as it will be closest to Earth in the whole of 2021. These two natural phenomena create an additional strong tidal current. But the fact that glowing snow was also observed on December 16 shows that conditions are not suitable for this only once a year.

How does one-eyed crab get its glare

Bioluminescence usually results from the oxidation of a small energy-storing molecule called luciferin. Luciferin produces a very dim light. But in combination with the enzyme luciferase, the reaction is accelerated, and a faint glow turns into a flicker.

Read also: What is that blue glow in Big Sur, California?

“So they have these two molecules, a photodiffuser and an accelerator,” Haddock explains. In some one-eyed crustaceans, the interaction between luciferin and luciferase occurs endogenously, but Mitredia Longa He has glands on his head and body that secrete the luminous substance. “They fire these two molecules away at the same time, causing little flashes in the water.” †Read more: This is how bioluminescence works in nature

Scientists think so mitridia And other one-eyed crustaceans use bioluminescence as a defense mechanism. “It is suspected that light either stuns enemies, causing them to spit out one-eyed shrimp, or that the light creates a distraction that allows one-eyed shrimp to escape,” said Todd Oakley, professor of evolutionary and marine ecology. Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

ghost lights

Kosopukova believes that the one-eyed crustacean in the snow is still alive. Plankton living in the Arctic are accustomed to the freezing cold. But bioluminescence experts say the creatures may already have died – giving their blue glow a ghostly glow.

Just as many clumsy kids are sad to notice, fireflies also glow when accidentally squeezed to death.

“We also see it in our lab animals,” Haddock adds. You collect a specific species and put it in the refrigerator to study later. If you take them out after that, they will light up. The chemical components in their bodies are still interacting.

Emily Lau of UCSB studies the biochemical aspects of bioluminescence in fish, crayfish and mussels related to monocular shrimp. These animals look like sesame seeds with eyes. “You can dry it and even though it’s dead, it still produces bioluminescence when you crush it in water,” she says.

“As long as this small molecule of luciferin is present, there will be bioluminescence,” Lau says.

According to Jürgen Berg, who studies polar night and Arctic sea ecosystems at the Norwegian University of Tromsø, it may be too soon to give full credit to the one-eyed crustaceans for displaying light. Berge has seen similar deposits of snow along the coast of Spitsbergen. He thinks clumps of dinoflagellates, single-celled algae that can cause bioluminescence, may provide a better explanation for this phenomenon (although he hasn’t researched the formation of glowing snow).

Read also: Fairytales: Frozen Waterfalls in Croatia

Dinoflagellates are the source of many wonderful examples of bioluminescence, such as the “phosphorescent bays” in Puerto Rico, where swimmers can spray each other with light, or dolphins leaving illuminated trails off the coast of California. †Read also: The deep sea shark is one of the largest luminous animals in the world

“Your attention is quickly drawn to the largest organism in the sample you are examining,” Berg says. But when you find an animal in a specimen that is capable of bioluminescence, the cause may be another animal that’s less obvious. Berg does not acknowledge that the light is particularly bright, also for the whip of religion.

Perhaps one of the amazing things is that the glowing snow has never been seen before at the research station, which has been in operation for more than 80 years. The first were Emelianenko, 24, and Neretin, 18. This can also be explained by the fact that most people don’t go out for fun at the North Pole at night, Kosopukova said. It is not very attractive. “There are bears and wolves here too,” Semenov adds.

However, the young biologists were rewarded for their keen eyesight and defiance of the cold. “There are so many wonderful things to discover if you dare to be childishly curious,” Haddock said.

Semenov agrees. “You just don’t expect to see a form of beauty in front of you that you didn’t know existed.”

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