‘Blue tears’ not toxic: Taiwan researcher

Focus Taiwan
Date: 2019/06/16
By: Feng Shao-fu and Evelyn Kao

Photo courtesy of Lienchiang County Government

Taipei, June 16 (CNA) Fluorescent blue sparkles, dubbed "blue tears," that glow around Taiwan's offshore Matsu Islands are not caused by toxic algae and a sign of environmental deterioration, a Taiwanese researcher said Sunday in rebutting a recent study.

Chiang Kuo-ping (蔣國平), a distinguished professor at National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU), said it cannot be established that the "blue tears" along beaches near Matsu are associated with toxic algae because they do not drain oxygen from the surrounding waters and kill marine life in the process as stated in the study.

He said the single-celled "noctiluca scintillans," also known as "dinoflagellates" or sea sparkles, that generate the bioluminescence described as "blue tears" when disturbed are non-toxic heterotrophs — organisms that feed on other sources of nutrition to survive.

In coastal ecosystems, they replace copepods — small crustaceans commonly found in aquatic communities — as the main consumers of phytoplankton and play the role of a "terminator" of single-cell algae called diatoms, which Chiang described as a normal phenomenon in marine ecosystems.

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