Marine Biology

, Volume 62, Issue 2–3, 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


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Anderson, G. C. and R. P. Zeutschel: Release of dissolved organic matter by marine phytoplankton in coastal and offshore areas of the northeast. Pacific Ocean. Limnol. Oceanogr. 15, 402–407 (1970)Google Scholar
  2. Blasco, D.: Observations on the diel migration of marine dinoflagellates off the Baja California Coast. Mar. Biol. 46, 41–47 (1978)Google Scholar
  3. Cullen, J. J. and R. W. Eppley: Chlorophyll maximum layers of the Southern California Bight and possible mechanisms of their formation and maintenance. Oceanol. Acta 4 23–32 (1981)Google Scholar
  4. Cullen, J. J. and E. H. Renger: Continuous measurement of the DCMU-induced fluorescence response of natural phytoplankton populations. Mar. Biol. 53, 13–20 (1979)Google Scholar
  5. Eppley, R. W. and W. G. Harrison. Physiological ecology of Gonyaulax polyedra, a red water dinoflagellate off Southern California. In: Proceedings of First International Conference on Toxic Dinoflagellate Blooms, pp 11–22. Ed. by U. R. LeCicero. Wakefield, Mass.: Massachusetts Science and Technology Foundation 1974Google Scholar
  6. Eppley, R. W., R. W. Holmes and J. D. H. Strickland: Sinking rates of marine phytoplankton measured with a fluorometer. J. exp. mar. Biol. Ecol. 1, 191–208 (1967)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eppley, R. W., O. Holm-Hansen and J. D. H. Strickland: Some observations on the vertical migration of dinoflagellates. J. Phycol. 4, 333–340 (1968)Google Scholar
  8. Eppley, R. W. and E. H. Renger: Nitrogen assimilation of an oceanic diatom in nitrogen-limited continuous culture. J. Phycol. 10, 15–23 (1974)Google Scholar
  9. Forward, R. B.: Light and diurnal vertical migration: photobehavior and photophysiology of plankton. Photochem. Photobiol. Rev. 1, 157–209 (1976)Google Scholar
  10. Harris, G. P., S. I. Heaney and J. F. Talling: Physiological and environmental constraints in the ecology of the planktonic dinoflagellate Ceratium hirundinella. Freshwat. Biol. 9, 413–428 (1979)Google Scholar
  11. Hasle, G. R.: Phototactic vertical migration in marine dinoflagellates. Oikos 2, 162–175 (1950)Google Scholar
  12. Heaney, S. I. and R. W. Eppley: Light, temperature, and nitrogen as interacting factors affecting diel vertical migrations of dinoflagellates in culture. J. Plankton Res. (In press)Google Scholar
  13. Heaney, S. I. and T. I. Furnass: Laboratory models of diel vertical migration in the dinoflagellate Ceratium hirundinella. Freshwat. Biol. 10, 163–170 (1980)Google Scholar
  14. Heaney, S. I. and J. F. Talling: Dynamic aspects of dinoflagellate distribution patterns in a small productive lake. J. Ecol. 68, 75–94 (1980)Google Scholar
  15. Holligan, P. M.: Dinoflagellate blooms associated with tidal fronts around the British Isles. In: Toxic dinoflagellate blooms, pp 249–256. Ed. by D. L. Taylor and H. H. Seliger. New York: Elsevier 1979Google Scholar
  16. Kamykowski, D.: The growth response of a model Gymnodinium splendens in stationary and wavy water columns. Mar. Biol. 50, 289–303 (1979)Google Scholar
  17. Kamykowski, D.: Laboratory experiments on the diurnal vertical migration of marine dinoflagellates through temperature gradients. Mar. Biol. 62, 57–64 (1981)Google Scholar
  18. Kamykowski, D. and S.-J. Zentara: The diurnal vertical migration of motile phytoplankton through temperature gradients. Limnol. Oceanogr. 22, 148–151 (1977)Google Scholar
  19. Kiefer, D. A. and R. Lasker: Two blooms of Gymnodinium splendens, an unarmored dinoflagellate. Fish. Bull. U.S. 73, 675–678 (1975)Google Scholar
  20. Lasker, R.: Field criteria for survival of anchovy larvae: the relation between inshore chlorophyll maximum layers and successful first feeding. Fish. Bull. U.S. 73, 453–462 (1975)Google Scholar
  21. Myers, J.: Physiology of the algae. A. Rev. Microbiol. 5, 157–180 (1951)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Prézelin, B. B., B. W. Meeson and B. M. Sweeney: Characterization of photosynthetic rhythms in marine dinoflagellates. I. Pigmentation, photosynthetic capacity and respiration. Pl. Physiol., Lancaster 60, 384–387 (1977)Google Scholar
  23. Provasoli, L.: Recent progress, an overview. In: Toxic dinoflagellate blooms, pp 1–14. Ed. by D. L. Taylor and H. H. Seliger. New York: Elsevier 1979Google Scholar
  24. Redfield, A. C., B. H. Ketchum and F. A. Richards: The influence of organisms on the composition of seawater, pp 26–77.Google Scholar
  25. Seliger, H. H., M. A. Tyler and K. R. McKinley: Phytoplankton distributions and red tides resulting from frontal circulation patterns. In: Toxic dinoflagellate blooms, pp 239–248. Ed. by D. L. Taylor and H. H. Seliger. New York: Elsevier 1979Google Scholar
  26. Sharp, J. H.: Improved analysis for “particulate” organic carbon and nitrogen from seawater. Limnol. Oceanogr. 19, 984–989 (1974)Google Scholar
  27. Sokal, R. R. and F. J. Rohlf: Biometry. The principles and practice of statistics in biological research, 776 pp. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co. 1969Google Scholar
  28. Solórzano, L.: Determination of ammonium in natural waters by the phenol hypochlorite method. Limnol. Oceanogr. 14, 799–801 (1969)Google Scholar
  29. Staker, R. D. and S. F. Bruno: Diurnal vertical migration in marine phytoplankton. Botanica mar. 23, 167–172 (1980)Google Scholar
  30. Steele, J. H.: A study of production in the Gulf of Mexico. J. mar. Res. 22, 211–222 (1964)Google Scholar
  31. Strickland, J. D. H., O. Holm-Hansen, R. W. Eppley and R. J. Linn: The use of a deep tank in plankton ecology. I. Studies of the growth and composition of phytoplankton crops at low nutrient levels. Limnol. Oceanogr. 14, 23–34 (1969)Google Scholar
  32. Strickland, J. D. H. and T. R. Parsons: A practical handbook of seawater analysis, 2nd ed. Bull. Fish. Res. Bd Can. 167, 1–310 (1972)Google Scholar
  33. Tate, M. W. and R. C. Clelland: Nonparametric and shortcut statistics, 171 pp. Danville, Illinois: Interstate Printers & Publishers 1957Google Scholar
  34. Tyler, M. A. and H. H. Seliger: Annual subsurface transport of a red tide dinoflagellate to its bloom area: water circulation patterns and organism distribution in the Chesapeake Bay. Limnol. Oceanogr. 23, 227–246 (1978)Google Scholar
  35. Weiler, C. S. and D. M. Karl: Diel changes in phased-dividing cultures of Ceratium furca (Dinophyceae): nucleotide triphosphates, adenylate energy charge, cell carbon, and patterns of vertical migration. J. Phycol. 15, 384–391 (1979)Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations