di·​no·​fla·​gel·​late | \ ˌdī-nō-ˈfla-jə-lət How to pronounce dinoflagellate (audio) , -ˌlāt; -flə-ˈje-lət How to pronounce dinoflagellate (audio) \

Definition of dinoflagellate

: any of an order (Dinoflagellata) of chiefly marine planktonic usually solitary unicellular phytoflagellates that include luminescent forms, forms important in marine food chains, and forms causing red tide

Examples of dinoflagellate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Not all dinoflagellates glow, but the ones that do are thought to have evolved the flashy trick to startle and scare off predators, not unlike a visual burglar alarm. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Dolphins, Surfers and Waves Sparkle in Bright Blue Bioluminescent Glow Off California Coast," 28 Apr. 2020 The glowing outline of the dolphins is caused by microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, "Watch ‘Glow-in-the-Dark’ Dolphins Play in California’s Bioluminescent Water," 27 Apr. 2020 Ciguatera poisoning occurs because tangs sometimes eat large quantities of creatures called dinoflagellates, which create several kinds of toxins that build up in the tang’s body. National Geographic, "Blue tang," 28 Feb. 2020 The waves are a fortuitous byproduct of microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates that can chemically synthesize their own light—a phenomenon called bioluminescence. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Dolphins, Surfers and Waves Sparkle in Bright Blue Bioluminescent Glow Off California Coast," 28 Apr. 2020 When the ocean heats up, symbiotic algae, the zooxanthellae [a yellowish-brown symbiotic dinoflagellate that lives in the coral and gives it color], can’t stay there anymore. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, "This is likely the last generation to see the Great Barrier Reef as humans have known it," 8 Apr. 2020 Along the coast of the East China Sea and Taiwan’s Matsu Islands, toxic bioluminescent algae called dinoflagellates light up the ocean surface with a bright blue glow. Lily Katzman, Smithsonian Magazine, "This ‘Blood-Red’ Snow Is Taking Over Parts of Antarctica," 1 Mar. 2020 Ironically, dinoflagellates are also responsible for one of nature’s nastiest phenomena—red tides. The Economist, "The bioluminescence people find so attractive is a defence mechanism," 21 June 2019 Red tide is a natural occurrence that happens due to the presence of nutrients in salt water and an organism called a dinoflagellate. Washington Post, "Memorial for 20 killed in crash is unveiled," 6 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dinoflagellate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dinoflagellate

1901, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for dinoflagellate

borrowed from New Latin Dinoflagellatum, presumed singular of Dinoflagellata, order name, from dino- (in Dinophysis, Peridinium and the genus names of other protists having a second flagellum in a transverse groove; borrowed from Greek dīn-, in dīneîn "to whirl, spin about," dī́nē "whirlpool, eddy," dînos "whirling, rotation, eddy," probably originally a verbal base, of obscure origin) + Flagellata, former order name, from neuter plural of flagellātum flagellate entry 2

Note: The name was introduced in the 1880's by the German zoologist Otto Bütschli (1848-1920); in his paper "Einige Bemerkungen über gewisse Organisationsverhältnisse der sog. Cilioflagellaten und der Noctiluca," Morphologisches Jahrbuch, 10. Band (1885), pp. 529-77, Bütschli suggests the name as an alternative to Cilioflagellata, on the grounds that the girdle of cilia thought to characterize these protists is actually a flagellum fit inside a transverse groove: "In any case the need arises to exchange the name Cilioflagellata for another, as it rests on a really incorrect conception of its structure … I can also not recommend Stein's designation as the arthrodelous ['clearly jointed'] Flagellata, and I would hence like to propose the name Dinoflagellata, which at once calls to mind the earlier name Cilioflagellata in a certain respect, and then as well expresses the most characteristic peculiarities of the typical forms, that is, the formation of a transverse groove storing a flagellum." ("Jedenfalls wird sich aber die Nothwendigkeit ergeben, die Bezeichnung Cilioflagellaten mit einer anderen zu vertauschen, da sie auf einer tathsächlich unrichtigen Auffassung des Baues beruht … Mit Stein die Cilioflagellaten als arthrodele Flagellaten zu bezeichnen, halte ich auch nicht für empfehlenswerth und möchte daher vorschlagen, die Bezeichnung Dinoflagellata zu gebrauchen, welche einmal in gewisser Hinsicht an den früheren Namen Cilioflagellaten erinnert und dann die für die typischen Formen charakteristischste Eigenthümlichkeit, nämlich die Ausbildung der Querfurche mit der eingelagerten Geissel zum Ausdruck bringt.") Bütschli does not state explicitly why he chose dino-, though it most likely simply reflects the use of the form in genus names of protists possessing the second flagellum. The zoologist E. Ray Lankester, in the article on Protozoa for the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1885), suggests in a discussion of Dinoflagellata that the allusion is to "Gr. dinos, the round area where oxen tread out on a threshing floor"—though this seems somewhat speculative and the relevance of dínos to a particular feature of the organism is not evident.

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The first known use of dinoflagellate was in 1901

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dinoflagellate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dinoflagellate. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for dinoflagellate


di·​no·​fla·​gel·​late | \ ˌdī-nō-ˈflaj-ə-lət How to pronounce dinoflagellate (audio) , -ˌlāt How to pronounce dinoflagellate (audio) , -flə-ˈjel-ət \

Medical Definition of dinoflagellate

: any of division or phylum (Dinoflagellata) of chiefly marine, planktonic, unicellular protists that include luminescent forms, forms important in marine food chains, and forms causing red tide

More from Merriam-Webster on dinoflagellate

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about dinoflagellate

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