Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 807–831 | Cite as

Geographical distribution of red and green Noctiluca scintillans

  • P. J. HarrisonEmail author
  • K. Furuya
  • P. M. Glibert
  • J. Xu
  • H. B. Liu
  • K. Yin
  • J. H. W. Lee
  • D. M. Anderson
  • R. Gowen
  • A. R. Al-Azri
  • A. Y. T. Ho
Species and Species-Specific Patterns and Responses


The dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans is one of the most important and abundant red tide organisms and it is distributed world-wide. It occurs in two forms. Red Noctiluca is heterotrophic and fills the role of one of the microzooplankton grazers in the foodweb. In contrast, green Noctiluca contains a photosynthetic symbiont Pedinomonas noctilucae (a prasinophyte), but it also feeds on other plankton when the food supply is abundant. In this review, we document the global distribution of these two forms and include the first maps of their global distribution. Red Noctiluca occurs widely in the temperate to sub-tropical coastal regions of the world. It occurs over a wide temperature range of about 10°C to 25°C and at higher salinities (generally not in estuaries). It is particularly abundant in high productivity areas such as upwelling or eutrophic areas where diatoms dominate since they are its preferred food source. Green Noctiluca is much more restricted to a temperature range of 25°C–30°C and mainly occurs in tropical waters of Southeast Asia, Bay of Bengal (east coast of India), in the eastern, western and northern Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and recently it has become very abundant in the Gulf of Oman. Red and green Noctiluca do overlap in their distribution in the eastern, northern and western Arabian Sea with a seasonal shift from green Noctiluca in the cooler winter convective mixing, higher productivity season, to red Noctiluca in the more oligotrophic warmer summer season.


Noctiluca global distribution distribution map green Noctiluca dinoflagellate 


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© Chinese Society for Oceanology and Limnology, Science Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. J. Harrison
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. Furuya
    • 2
  • P. M. Glibert
    • 3
  • J. Xu
    • 1
  • H. B. Liu
    • 1
  • K. Yin
    • 4
  • J. H. W. Lee
    • 1
  • D. M. Anderson
    • 5
  • R. Gowen
    • 6
  • A. R. Al-Azri
    • 7
  • A. Y. T. Ho
    • 8
  1. 1.Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyHong KongChina
  2. 2.Department of Aquatic BioscienceUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Horn Point LaboratoryUniversity of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.School of Marine SciencesSun Yat-Sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  5. 5.Department of BiologyWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA
  6. 6.Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems BranchAgri-Food and Biosciences InstituteBelfastUK
  7. 7.Department of Marine Science and FisheriesSultan Qaboos UniversityMuscatSultanate of Oman
  8. 8.Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation DepartmentHong KongChina

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