Unicellular algae with two flagella / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The dinoflagellates (Greek δῖνος dinos "whirling" and Latin flagellum "whip, scourge") are a monophyletic group of single-celled eukaryotes constituting the phylum Dinoflagellata[5] and are usually considered algae. Dinoflagellates are mostly marine plankton, but they also are common in freshwater habitats. Their populations vary with sea surface temperature, salinity, and depth. Many dinoflagellates are photosynthetic, but a large fraction of these are in fact mixotrophic, combining photosynthesis with ingestion of prey (phagotrophy and myzocytosis).[6][7]

Quick facts: Dinoflagellate Temporal range 240–0 Ma[...
Temporal range: 240–0 Ma[1] Triassic or earlier–Present
Ceratium sp.
Scientific classification e
Domain: Eukaryota
Clade: Diaphoretickes
Clade: SAR
Clade: Alveolata
Phylum: Myzozoa
Subphylum: Dinozoa
Superclass: Dinoflagellata
Bütschli 1885 [1880–1889] sensu Gomez 2012[2][3][4]
  • Cilioflagellata Claparède & Lachmann, 1868
  • Dinophyta Dillon, 1963
  • Dinophyceae sensu Pascher, 1914
  • Pyrrophyta Pascher 1914
  • Pyrrhophycophyta Papenfuss 1946
  • Arthrodelen Flagellaten Stein 1883
  • Dinomastigota Margulis & Sagan, 1985
  • Dinophyta Dillon, 1963

In terms of number of species, dinoflagellates are one of the largest groups of marine eukaryotes, although substantially smaller than diatoms.[8] Some species are endosymbionts of marine animals and play an important part in the biology of coral reefs. Other dinoflagellates are unpigmented predators on other protozoa, and a few forms are parasitic (for example, Oodinium and Pfiesteria). Some dinoflagellates produce resting stages, called dinoflagellate cysts or dinocysts, as part of their lifecycles, and are known from 84 of the 350 described freshwater species, and form a little more than 10% of the known marine species.[9][10] Dinoflagellates are alveolates possessing two flagella, the ancestral condition of bikonts.

About 1,555 species of free-living marine dinoflagellates are currently described.[11] Another estimate suggests about 2,000 living species, of which more than 1,700 are marine (free-living, as well as benthic) and about 220 are from fresh water.[12] The latest estimates suggest a total of 2,294 living dinoflagellate species, which includes marine, freshwater, and parasitic dinoflagellates.[2]

A rapid accumulation of certain dinoflagellates can result in a visible coloration of the water, colloquially known as red tide (a harmful algal bloom), which can cause shellfish poisoning if humans eat contaminated shellfish. Some dinoflagellates also exhibit bioluminescence—primarily emitting blue-green light. Thus, some parts of the ocean light up at night giving blue-green light.