Marine Biology

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 81–89

Effects of nitrate on the diurnal vertical migration, carbon to nitrogen ratio, and the photosynthetic capacity of the dinoflagellate Gymnodinium splendens

  • J. J. Cullen
  • S. G. Horrigan

DOI: 10.1007/BF00388169

Cite this article as:
Cullen, J.J. & Horrigan, S.G. Mar. Biol. (1981) 62: 81. doi:10.1007/BF00388169


A non-thecate dinoflagellate, Gymnodinium splendens, was studied in a 12 d laboratory experiment in 2.0x0.25 m containers in which light, temperature, and nutrients could be manipulated. Under a 12 h light: 12 h dark cycle, the dinoflagellates exhibited diurnal vertical migrations, swimming downward before the dark period began and upward before the end of the dark period. This vertical migration probably involved geotaxis and a diel rhythm, as well as light-mediated behavior. The vertical distribution of nitrate affected the behavior and physiology of the dinoflagellate. When nitrate was present throughout the container, the organisms resembled those in exponential batch culture both in C:N ratios and photosynthetic capacity (Pmax); moreover, they migrated to the surface during the day. In contrast, when nitrate was depleted, C:N ratios increased, Pmax decreased, and the organisms formed a subsurface layer at a depth corresponding to the light level at which photosynthesis saturated. When nitrate was present only at the bottom of the tank, C:N ratios of the population decreased until similar to those of nutrient-saturated cells and Pmax increased; however, the dinoflagellates behaved the same as nutrient-depleted cells, forming a subsurface layer during the light period. Field measurements revealed a migratory subsurface chlorophyll maximum layer dominated by G. splendens. It was just above the nitracline during the day, and in the nitracline during the night, which concurs with our laboratory observations.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. J. Cullen
    • 1
  • S. G. Horrigan
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Marine Resources, A-018, Scripps Institution of OceanographyUniversity of CaliforniaLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Marine Ecology LaboratoryBedford Institute of OceanographyDartmouthCanada

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