A beautiful white film has been coating the shores of the White Sea for decades now. So when researchers recently noticed a mysterious blue hue glistening from the Arctic snowbank, they set off to investigate. From the initial study to the remarkable discovery it called for, here's what they found nestled among the Russian research site.
It all started when microbiologist Vera Emelianenko took a stroll along a surrounding field station one December night. Only as she trekked along the snowy embankment with a fellow biologist, something bizarre suddenly caught their eye: "[It was] like blue Christmas lights in the snow," she recalled of the mysterious glow in the snow before them. What was the cause of the unexpected sighting?
As Emelianenko and her associate walked over to investigate, they noticed the same blue hue in their snowy footsteps. Instantly, the amazed researcher bent down and grabbed a handful of the glistening snow. "We stomped the ground all together for maybe two hours." Next, the two snapped several photographs and exchanged a few phone calls before heading back to the lab to further investigate their finding.
Sure enough, after placing a sample of the snow under the microscope, the two finally reached a conclusion: tiny, microscopic creatures were behind the Arctic marvel. Dubbed the "bugs of the sea," Copepods might be just a few millimeters long, but the deep-sea crustaceans certainly make their presence known.
Found at depths of up to 300 feet during any given day, the creatures found by Emelianenko were likely caught in a powerful current that forced them ashore. But what caused their remarkable hue? As marine biologist Steven Haddock added, Copepods have "these two molecules inside of them, a light emitter and an accelerator... they’ll shoot out those two molecules at the same time and form a little puff of light in the water."
But their miraculous glow is actually anything but random. "One idea is that the light could startle predators and cause them to spit out the Copepod," Todd Oakley, a professor of marine biology explained of the apparent defense mechanism. Safe to say, the creatures might be tiny, but their mark in the scientific community is anything but.
Stay tuned, who knows what other discoveries await us...