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Overview

Brief Summary

Species Overview

Noctiluca scintillans is an unarmoured, marine planktonic dinoflagellate species. This large and distinctive bloom forming species has an associated with fish and marine invertebrate mortality events.

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It is a mysterious experience as you walk along the beach on a warm summery night when sea sparkle is abundant in the water. As your foot presses down on the wet sand, you see sparks of light. Sometimes breaking waves appear as blue lines. Millions of sea sparkle collide by moving water, producing a chemical reaction which results in a greenish or bluish light. This spark is meant to scare off predators. Sea sparkle is a dinoflagellate. During the day, you can perceive large amounts of sea sparkle 'blooming' when the seawater appears pinkish.
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Comprehensive Description

A very large, distinctive cell, sometimes visible with the naked eye. A distinctive striped tentacle arises from a depression on the cells.
  • Tomas C ed. (1996) Identifying marine diatoms and dinoflagellates. pp 598. Academic Press Ltd. London
  • Escalera, L; Pazos, Y; Moron, A; Reguera, B. 2007. Noctiluca scintillans may act as a vector of toxigenic microalgae. Harmful Algae 6: 317-320
  • Taylor, FJR; Fukuyo, Y; Larsen, J; Hallegraeff, GM. 2003. Taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. In: G.M. Hallegraeff, D.M. Anderson & A.D. Cembella (eds.), Manual of Harmful Marine Microalgae, Monographs on oceanic methodology 11, UNESCO Publishing, Paris, pp.389-432.
  • Fukuda Y. & Endoh H. (2006). New details from the complete life cycle of the red-tide dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans (Ehrenberg) McCartney. European Journal of Protistology 42: 209-219
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Source: Harmful Phytoplankton Project

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Physical Description

Morphology

Morphology and Structure

Noctiluca scintillans is a nonphotosynthetic heterotrophic and phagotrophic dinoflagellate species; chloroplasts are absent and the cytoplasm is mostly colorless (Figs. 1, 2). The presence of photosynthetic symbionts can cause the cytoplasm to appear pink or green in color. A number of food vacuoles are present within the cytoplasm. A large eukaryotic nucleus is located near the ventral groove with cytoplasmic strands extending from it to the edge of the cell (Fig. 2).

  • Dodge, J.D. 1982. Marine Dinoflagellates of the British Isles. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London. 303 pp.
  • Fukuyo, Y., H. Takano, M. Chihara & K. Matsuoka 1990. Red Tide Organisms in Japan. An Illustrated Taxonomic Guide. Uchida Rokakuho, Co., Ltd., Tokyo. 407 pp.
  • Hallegraeff, G.M. 1991. Aquaculturists Guide to Harmful Australian Microalgae. Fishing Industry Training Board of Tasmania/CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Hobart, 111 pp.
  • Steidinger, K.A. & K. Tangen 1996. Dinoflagellates. In: C.R. Tomas (ed.), Identifying Marine Diatoms and Dinoflagellates, Academic Press, New York: 387-598.
  • Sweeney, B.M. 1978. Ultrastructure of Noctiluca miliaris (Pyrrophyta) with green symbionts. J. Phycol. 14: 116-120.
  • Zingmark, R.G. 1970. Sexual reproduction in the dinoflagellate Noctiluca miliaris Suriray. J. Phycol. 6: 122-126.
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National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Botany

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Taxonomic Description

Noctiluca scintillans is a distinctively shaped athecate species in which the cell is not divided into epitheca and hypotheca. Cells are very large, inflated (balloon-like) and subspherical (Figs. 1-4). The ventral groove is deep and wide, and houses a flagellum, a tooth and a tentacle (Figs. 1,2,4). Only one flagellum is present in this species and is equivalent to the transverse flagellum in other dinoflagellates (Fig. 1). The tooth is a specialized extension of the cell wall (Fig. 4). The prominent tentacle is striated and extends posteriorly (Fig. 4). Cells have a wide range in size: from 200-2000 µm in diameter.

  • Dodge, J.D. 1973. The Fine Structure of Algal Cells. Academic Press, London. 261 pp.
  • Dodge, J.D. 1982. Marine Dinoflagellates of the British Isles. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London. 303 pp.
  • Fukuyo, Y., H. Takano, M. Chihara & K. Matsuoka 1990. Red Tide Organisms in Japan. An Illustrated Taxonomic Guide. Uchida Rokakuho, Co., Ltd., Tokyo. 407 pp.
  • Hallegraeff, G.M. 1991. Aquaculturists Guide to Harmful Australian Microalgae. Fishing Industry Training Board of Tasmania/CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Hobart, 111 pp.
  • Lucas, I.A.N. 1982. Observations on Noctiluca scintillans Macartney (Ehrenb.) (Dinophyceae) with notes on an intracellular bacterium. J. Plank. Res. 4: 401-409.
  • Steidinger, K.A. & K. Tangen 1996. Dinoflagellates. In: C.R. Tomas (ed.), Identifying Marine Diatoms and Dinoflagellates, Academic Press, New York: 387-598.
  • Taylor, F.J.R., Y. Fukuyo & J. Larsen 1995. Taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. In: G.M. Hallegraeff, D.M. Anderson & A.D. Cembella (eds.), Manual on Harmful Marine Microalgae, IOC Manuals and Guides No. 33. UNESCO, France: 283-317.
  • Zingmark, R.G. 1970. Sexual reproduction in the dinoflagellate Noctiluca miliaris Suriray. J. Phycol. 6: 122-126.
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National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Botany

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Locality

Noctiluca scintillans is a cosmopolitan species distributed world wide in cold and warm waters. Populations are commonly found in coastal areas and embayments of tropical and subtropical regions.

  • Dodge, J.D. 1982. Marine Dinoflagellates of the British Isles. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London. 303 pp.
  • Fukuyo, Y., H. Takano, M. Chihara & K. Matsuoka 1990. Red Tide Organisms in Japan. An Illustrated Taxonomic Guide. Uchida Rokakuho, Co., Ltd., Tokyo. 407 pp.
  • Hallegraeff, G.M. 1991. Aquaculturists Guide to Harmful Australian Microalgae. Fishing Industry Training Board of Tasmania/CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Hobart, 111 pp.
  • Steidinger, K.A. & K. Tangen 1996. Dinoflagellates. In: C.R. Tomas (ed.), Identifying Marine Diatoms and Dinoflagellates, Academic Press, New York: 387-598.
  • Taylor, F.J.R., Y. Fukuyo & J. Larsen 1995. Taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. In: G.M. Hallegraeff, D.M. Anderson & A.D. Cembella (eds.), Manual on Harmful Marine Microalgae, IOC Manuals and Guides No. 33. UNESCO, France: 283-317.
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National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Botany

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Depth range based on 1504 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 332 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 172
  Temperature range (°C): 8.413 - 24.625
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.044 - 8.908
  Salinity (PPS): 17.095 - 35.840
  Oxygen (ml/l): 0.516 - 6.874
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.128 - 1.682
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.648 - 77.938

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 172

Temperature range (°C): 8.413 - 24.625

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.044 - 8.908

Salinity (PPS): 17.095 - 35.840

Oxygen (ml/l): 0.516 - 6.874

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.128 - 1.682

Silicate (umol/l): 0.648 - 77.938
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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General Ecology

Ecology

Noctiluca scintillans is a strongly buoyant planktonic species common in neritic and coastal regions of the world. It is also bioluminescent in some parts of the world. This bloom-forming species is associated with fish and marine invertebrate mortality events. N. scintillans red tides frequently form in spring to summer in many parts of the world often resulting in a strong pinkish red or orange discoloration of the water (tomato-soup). Blooms have been reported from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and China where the water is discolored red. Recent blooms in New Zealand were reported pink with cell concentrations as high as 1.9 X 106 cells/L. In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand (tropical regions), however, the watercolor is green due to the presence of green prasinophyte endosymbionts. This large cosmopolitan species is phagotrophic, feeding on phytoplankton (mainly diatoms and other dinoflagellates), protozoans, detritus, and fish eggs (Fig. 2).

  • Chang, F.H. 2000. Pink blooms in the spring in Wellington Harbour. Aquaculture Update 24: 10-12.
  • Dodge, J.D. 1982. Marine Dinoflagellates of the British Isles. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London. 303 pp.
  • Fukuyo, Y., H. Takano, M. Chihara & K. Matsuoka 1990. Red Tide Organisms in Japan. An Illustrated Taxonomic Guide. Uchida Rokakuho, Co., Ltd., Tokyo. 407 pp.
  • Hallegraeff, G.M. 1991. Aquaculturists Guide to Harmful Australian Microalgae. Fishing Industry Training Board of Tasmania/CSIRO Division of Fisheries, Hobart, 111 pp.
  • Huang, C. & H. Qi. 1997. The abundance cycle and influence factors on red tide phenomena of Noctiluca scintillans (Dinophyceae) in Dapeng Bay, the South China Sea. J. Plank. Res. 19: 303-318.
  • Steidinger, K.A. & K. Tangen 1996. Dinoflagellates. In: C.R. Tomas (ed.), Identifying Marine Diatoms and Dinoflagellates, Academic Press, New York: 387-598.
  • Sweeney, B.M. 1978. Ultrastructure of Noctiluca miliaris (Pyrrophyta) with green symbionts. J. Phycol. 14: 116-120.
  • Taylor, F.J.R., Y. Fukuyo & J. Larsen 1995. Taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. In: G.M. Hallegraeff, D.M. Anderson & A.D. Cembella (eds.), Manual on Harmful Marine Microalgae, IOC Manuals and Guides No. 33. UNESCO, France: 283-317.
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Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Botany

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Bioluminescence

See this video for luminescence

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Reproduction

Noctiluca scintillans reproduces asexually by binary fission (Fig. 3) and also sexually via formation of isogametes. This species has a diplontic life cycle: the vegetative cell is diploid while the gametes are haploid. The gametes are gymnodinioid with dinokaryotic nuclei.

  • Zingmark, R.G. 1970. Sexual reproduction in the dinoflagellate Noctiluca miliaris Suriray. J. Phycol. 6: 122-126.
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Physiology and Cell Biology

Physiology

Toxicity

Toxic blooms of N. scintillans have been linked to massive fish and marine invertebrate kills. Although this species does not produce a toxin, it has been found to accumulate toxic levels of ammonia which is then excreted into the surrounding waters possibly acting as the killing agent in blooms. Extensive toxic blooms have been reported off the east and west coasts of India, where it has been implicated in the decline of fisheries.

  • Aiyar, R.G. 1936. Mortality of fish of the Madras coast in June 1935. Current Sci. 4: 488-489.
  • Bhimachar, B.S. & P.C. George 1950. Abrupt set-backs in the fisheries of the Malabar and Kanara coasts and 'red water' phenomenon as their probable cause. Proc. Indian Acad. Sci. (B) 31: 339-350.
  • Fukuyo, Y., H. Takano, M. Chihara & K. Matsuoka 1990. Red Tide Organisms in Japan. An Illustrated Taxonomic Guide. Uchida Rokakuho, Co., Ltd., Tokyo. 407 pp.
  • Okaichi, T. & S. Nishio 1976. Identification of ammonia as the toxic principle of red tide of Noctiluca miliaris. Bull. Plank. Soc. Jpn. 23: 75-80.
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Conservation

Management

Toxicity

Organism accumulates large amounts of ammonia in the vacuole, which may be toxic to fish (Taylor et al., 2003). Food vacuoles containing toxigenic microalgae may act as a vector of phycotoxins to higher trophic levels (Escalera et al., 2007).
  • Tomas C ed. (1996) Identifying marine diatoms and dinoflagellates. pp 598. Academic Press Ltd. London
  • Escalera, L; Pazos, Y; Moron, A; Reguera, B. 2007. Noctiluca scintillans may act as a vector of toxigenic microalgae. Harmful Algae 6: 317-320
  • Taylor, FJR; Fukuyo, Y; Larsen, J; Hallegraeff, GM. 2003. Taxonomy of harmful dinoflagellates. In: G.M. Hallegraeff, D.M. Anderson & A.D. Cembella (eds.), Manual of Harmful Marine Microalgae, Monographs on oceanic methodology 11, UNESCO Publishing, Paris, pp.389-432.
  • Fukuda Y. & Endoh H. (2006). New details from the complete life cycle of the red-tide dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans (Ehrenberg) McCartney. European Journal of Protistology 42: 209-219
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Wikipedia

Noctiluca scintillans

Noctiluca scintillans, commonly known as the Sea Sparkle,[1] and also published as Noctiluca miliaris, is a free-living non-parasitic marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate that exhibits bioluminescence, when disturbed. The bioluminescent characteristic of N. scintillans is produced by a luciferin-luciferase reaction that takes place in thousands of spherically shaped organelles, called scintillons, located throughout the cytoplasm of this single-celled protist. Nonluminescent populations within the genus Noctiluca lack these scintillons.

Diet[edit]

Long exposure image of bioluminescence of Noctiluca scintillans in the yacht port of Zeebrugge

N. scintillans is a heterotroph (non-photosynthetic) that engulfs its food by phagocytosis, which includes plankton, diatoms, other dinoflagellates, as well as fish eggs and bacteria. Diatoms are often found in the vacuoles (internal membrane-bound storage compartments) within these single-celled creatures. These green non-feeding symbioses can grow photoautotrophically for generations.[2] The diatom Thalassiosira sp. has been noted in the literature as a favored food source of these organisms.

Distribution[edit]

N. scintillans can be found widely distributed throughout the world, often along the coast, in estuary, and shallow areas of the continental shelf that receive plenty of light which promotes the growth of the phytoplankton that make up a large portion of N. scintillans’s diet.

Size[edit]

The size of the single-celled N. scintillans ranges from 200 to 2,000 µm in diameter, assuming the generally spherical shape. N. scintillans lacks the armor plates possessed by other types of dinoflagellates. And, unlike many other dinoflagellates, the chromosomes of the Noctiluca are not clearly visible and condensed throughout its lifecycle.

Life cycle[edit]

Noctiluca is unusual amongst dinoflagellates in appearing to have a diplontic life-cycle.[3]

Anatomy[edit]

N. scintillans has a ventral groove within which is located a flagellum, an extension of the cell wall called a tooth, and a striated tentacle involved in ingestion that projects posteriorly. The flagellum does not move the organism and therefore the non-motile N. scintillans depends upon regulation of its buoyancy within the water column – perhaps by controlling its cellular concentration of ions and ammonia.

At least one study has shown that a string of mucus is produced by N. scintillans extending from the tip of the tentacle which then adheres to plankton as it ascends rapidly through concentrations of its prey in the water column.

"Blooms"[edit]

High concentrations of their plankton food source that likely result from environmental conditions such as well-mixed nutrient-rich waters and seasonal circulation factors are implicated in population blooms of N. scintillans.

Swimmers may report being illuminated by a ghostly glow-in-the-dark plankton - a floating bloom of algae which fires up into a luminescent sparkle when disturbed. This gives Noctiluca scintillans the popular names "Sea Ghost" or "Fire of Sea".[4]

Runoff from agricultural pollution may contribute to the severity of these blooms. However this is not required to cause explosive growth of Noctiluca scintillans.

Not all blooms associated with N. scintillans are red. The color of N. scintillans is in part derived from the pigments of organisms inside the vacuoles of N. scintillans. For instance, green tides result from N. scintillans populations that contain green-pigmented prasinophytes (green algae, Subphylum Chlorophyta)[5] that are living in their vacuoles.

N. scintillans itself does not appear to be toxic, but as they feed voraciously on phytoplankton high levels of ammonia accumulate in these organisms which is then excreted by N. scintillans into the surrounding area which may add to the neurotoxic chemicals being produced by other dinoflagellates, such as Alexandrium spp. or Gonyaulax spp., that do result in the death of other aquatic life in the area.

Evolutionary development[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A image of the "Sea Sparkle" from 'Britannica Online Encyclopedia'". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
  2. ^ Saito, Haruna, Ken Furuya & Thaithaworn Lirdwitayarpasit, 2006. Photoautotrophic growth of Noctiluca scintillans with the endosymbiont Pedinomonas noctilucae. Plankton & Benthos Research 1: 97–101
  3. ^ ZINGMARK, R. G., 1970. Sexual reproduction in the dinoflagellate Noctiluca miliaris Suriray. Journal of Phycology, 6(2): 122-126.
  4. ^ "Lights in Irish Sea are natural". Irish Times. 18 October 2009. 
  5. ^ Pascher, 1914

Other references[edit]

  • Eckert R & Reynolds GT. 1967. "The Subcellular Origin of Bioluminescence in Noctiluca miliaris". J Gen Physiol. 50 (5): 1429-58.
  • Elbrächter, M. and Y. Z. Qi. 1998. "Aspects of Noctiluca (Dinophyceae) population dynamics." In: D.M. Anderson et al., Physiological Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms. NATO ASI Series, Vol. G 41. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 315–335.
  • Hausmann, Klaus; Hulsmann, Norbert; & Radek, Renate; "Protistology" (3rd Edition) 2003. in E. Scheizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung.
  • Lenaers, Guy; Christopher Scholin, Yvonne Bhaud, Danielle Saint-Hilaire and Michel Herzog. 1991. "A molecular phylogeny of dinoflagellate protists (Pyrrhophyta) inferred from the sequence of 24S rRNA divergent domains D1 and D8." Journal of Molecular Evolution. Volume 32: 1; pp. 53–63
  • Murray, Shauna; Marten Flø Jørgensen, Simon Y.W. Ho, David J. Patterson, and Lars S. Jermiin. 2005. "Improving the Analysis of Dinoflagellate Phylogeny based on rDNA." Protist. Vol. 156, 269-286
  • Palmer, Jefferey D. 2003. "The Symbiotic Birth and Spread of Plastids: How Many Times and Whodunit?" J. Phycol. 39, 4-11
  • Tada, Kuninao; Santiwat Pithakpol, Rumiko Yano and Shigeru Montani. 2000. "Carbon and nitrogen content of Noctiluca scintillans in the Seto Inland Sea, Japan." Journal of Plankton Research. Vol.22 no.6 pp. 1203–1211
  • Thomas Kiørboe and Josefin Titelman. 1998. "Feeding, prey selection and prey encounter mechanisms in the heterotrophic dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans." Journal of Plankton Research. V20: 8 pp. 1615–1636
  • Umani, S. Fonda; A. Beran, S. Parlato, D. Virgilio, T. Zollet, A. De Olazabal, B. Lazzarini and M. Cabrini. 2004. "Noctiluca scintillans in the Northern Adriatic Sea: long-term dynamics, relationships with temperature and eutrophication, and role in the food web." Journal of Plankton Research. 26(5):545-561
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