Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Marine Botany



The siliceous framework of an unidentified silicoflagellate from an off-shore plankton tow in Monterey Bay, California.  Magnification 400X.  


Silicoflagellates are a poorly understood group of phytoplankters that are difficult to study due to their small size.  They secrete silicon dioxide either in the form of a framework (as shown above) or in the form of multiple scales.  The marine forms commonly have the framework type secretion.  The cell body wraps around the siliceous framework - like cotton candy around a stick.  They have two flagellae, one is long and very efficient at moving the cell through the water.  The other flagellum is very small and nearly impossible to see.  Like other phytoplankters, they can produce blooms which can block sunlight from reaching underlying parts of the ocean - including blocking light from understory marine plants.   


Silicoflagellates Quick Facts:

Cell size: 2-20 m m

Cell wall: SiO2 scales or framework

Chloroplasts: 1-2/cell, 3 thylakoid membranes/stack

Reproduction: simple cell division, sexual reproduction 

Ecological roles: biflagellated, produces blooms

Common genusDictyocha

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