Species of the week

This week we are going to take a look into a bright species, the Sea Sparkle

Common name: Sea Sparkle

Species: Noctiluca scintillans or Noctiluca miliaris ()


Kingdom: Eukaryota

Phylum: Dinoflagellata

Class: Dinophyceae

Order: Noctilucales

Family: Noctilucaceae

Genus: Noctiluca


Size: 0.2 – 2 mm in diameter; average size ~ 0.5mm

Noctiluca scintillans is an unarmoured, marine planktonic dinoflagellate species. Today, blooms of this species, which form a thick scum across the sea surface, visibly red or pink in daylight, are known to be hazardous to fish and some other marine species.



N. scintillans can be found widely distributed throughout the world, usually along the coast, in estuaries and shallow areas of the continental shelf that receive plenty of light, which is going to increase the growth of phytoplankton which make up a large part of this species diet.

This species is normally found in temperate, subtropical and tropical waters. They can persist year round, but more abundant during warmer seasons.



This species reproduces asexually by binary fission and also sexually via formation of isogametes. N. scintillans has a diplontic life cycle, meaning that the vegetative cell is diploid while the gamete are haploid.



This species is known to be strongly buoyant, balloon-shaped cell, it possess an oral pouch, a short flagellum and a tentacle. The cytoplasm of these individuals is mostly colourless, except for the presence of minute carotenoid globules around the periphery of the cell.

Noctiluca scintillans red tides frequently form in spring to summer in many parts of the world, often resulting in a strong pinkish red or orange discoloration of the water.



This large cosmopolitan species is phagotrophic, feeding on phytoplankton, mainly diatoms and other dinoflagellates, protozoans, detritus and fish eggs.



No toxic effects are known, but it is possible that the high ammonia content of the vacuoles irritates fish, which generally avoid the bloom areas. Extensive toxic blooms have been reported off east and west India coasts, where it has been implicated in the decline of fisheries.



  • Because it blooms in very dense aggregation, it attracts many predator;
  • Can cause spectacular bioluminescence
  • There is a song from Jorge Dexter called Noctiluca
  • It is possible to observed this species in Mozambican water, for example in Pemba, in Mozambique Island and in Ibo