Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany


Toxic Beauties

By Josh Rapport



Welcome to the wonderful world of dinoflagellates!

Dinos are photosynthetic phytoplankton. Along with the diatoms, phytoplankton are responsible for as much as 70% of the world's oxygen production and carbon dioxide consumption!


These marvelous, microbial, single-celled organisms are beautiful and sometimes deadly. But they give us oxygen to breath and food to eat. They range in shape and size from invisible to almost impossible to see. Found glowing in waters around the world , and manage to maintain an active sex life. Let's hear it for the dinos!


Kingdom Protoctista

Phylum Pyrrophyta
	Class Dinophyceae
		Order Lophodiniales
			Family Ceratiaceae
				Genus Ceratium
					C. Tripos
		Order Peridiniales
			Family Gonyaulacaceae
				Genus Gonyaulax
					G. Polyedra


Dinoflagellates come in two flavors: thecate and athecate. The theca is a hard outer plate-mail covering that protects them from the harsh conditions of an ocean that can split a surfboard like a cinnamon stick or even sink a boat. Always a knight in "shining" armour.

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009