Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany

Dinoflagellate Evolution: Where do dinoflagellates belong?

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.


Most species of dinoflagellate reproduce in two ways: asexually by mitotic division, and sexually by fusion of gametes. Their life history is considerably more complex than this, however, sometimes involving many intermediate stages.


Bursts, Blooms, And Red Tides

In and around Monterey and in many temperate zones worldwide, seasonal fluctuations in nutrient levels in the water can cause population explosions in many species of dinoflagellate which may be seen as red blotches in the ocean, which can even be seen from outer space!


Trophic interactions. Dinos the link that hangs the chain.

Brilliant Phosphorescence

Dinoflagellates cause the gohstly blue-green points of light seen in waves or surrounding boat wakes and even night swimmers.
Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009