Glowing fish!?

Michael Adamson s_mka1 at eduserv.its.unimelb.EDU.AU
Tue Jul 8 21:46:24 EST 1997

G'day, I had a bit of an unsettling experience last night which I'm keen
to put to rest.....

Three days ago, I bought a flathead (marine bottom-dwelling fish) from a
Melbourne (southern Australia) market.  Filleted it, fried it up in beer
batter, and it tasted great.  Batter consisted of self raising flour,
filtered beer, salt, and mixed herbs.

Last night, as I staggered through the kitchen to the bathroom at 3am, I
noticed the leftover 3 day old batter was full of intensely glowing pieces
several mm diameter.  This was right through the batter, and did not
change intensity with agitation.  Then I looked at the leftover uncooked
fish in the bin (not battered), and the whole thing was glowing strongly! 
I therefore assume the fish was the source of the glowing agent.  I did
not dissect it to see if this was just a surface phenomenon.  The glowing
in the batter could be stopped with 50% ethanol (gin!) and a check with a
geiger counter this morning revealed nothing above background.  A sample
of the batter I brought into the lab is still glowing, and no-one I've
asked has been able to provide a definite answer.  From my own search, I
suspect Photobacterium phosphoreum may be a likely contender. 

Anyway, now I'm fascinated and would like to know:

Is Photobacterium phosphoreum likely considering the source, age, and
culture conditions?

Should I be concerned about having eaten half the fish!?  (I feel no
obvious ill-effects).

Any information would be greatly appreciated!

Michael Adamson
School of Botany
University of Melbourne

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