Autotrophic dinoflagellates create their own food by converting light energy into chemical energy using photosynthesis. Heterotrophic dinoflagellates receive nutrition from processing other complex organic substances. These dinoflagellates feed on algae, other dinoflagellates and the larvae or eggs of marine plankton.
Dinoflagellates are single-celled marine organisms that make up an important component in plankton. They are present in a large number of algae species and can live in freshwater, estuaries, tropical seas or even the arctic. These microorganisms in planktonic algae provide food for oysters, scallops, clams and crustacean larvae. An explosion in the population density of photosynthetic dinoflagellates can discolor water creating the phenomenon commonly known as “red tide.”