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Discoloration of seawater caused by dinoflagellates during periodic blooms (population increases). Toxic substances released by these organisms into the water may be lethal to fish and other marine life, and they irritate the human respiratory system. Coastal resorts sometimes close when breaking waves release the toxic substances into the air. The causes of red tide are uncertain; it may require the confluence of several natural phenomena, in which human influence may or may not play a part.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on red tide, visit Britannica.com.