I went to see Moana with my family shortly after it came out. My sister will tell you that I keeled over laughing at the part where the crab says, “Oh I see, you used a barnacle covered in bioluminescent algae as a deception!” I can’t tell you why I cracked up. The truth is I’m not really sure why. Maybe I was surprised that a crab recognized the bioluminescent algae and barnacle as part of his environment, or that he pronounced algae the same way my biology professor did all semester.
Was I surprised that bioluminescent algae appeared in a Disney movie about island life? Certainly not. Bioluminescent algae, classified as dinoflagellate, is featured in so many films that it deserves an Oscar. In fact, there is a webpage linked here solely devoted to the presence of this organism in books and movies. Bioluminescent algae aren’t range-bound to oceans, though. Dinoflagellates can be found in various environments, as can other strange glowing creatures.
I wish I had been at Virginia Beach this September when the coast was lined with neon waves. The algae collect energy from the sun during the day and carry out the photosynthesis process at night, which makes them glow. The glow can also be a mechanical response to motion in the water, which works as an alert to scare off predators. It’s true. While you probably think bioluminescent algae are pretty, animals are usually scared off by the glow. It’s no wonder scientists love doing experiments with this stuff. I hope you learned something from this post! Let me know what you think.
Pic: Tamatoa the crab, from Disney Wikia page.