Sequences of 18S rRNA genes were obtained from eight species of Prorocentrum Ehrenberg: P. minimum (Pavillard) Schiller, P. mexicanum Osorio Tafall, P. emarginatum Fukuyo, P. lima (Ehrenberg) Dodge, P. arenarium Faust, P. maculosum Faust, P. concavum Fukuyo, and P. panamensis, sp. nov. Prorocentrum panamensis is a new species of tropical dinoflagellate isolated from a benthic coral reef on the Pacific coast of Panama and described here using scanning electron microscopy. Cells are heart shaped, 46–52 μm long and 43–46 μm wide. The valve surfaces are areolate except in the central area. Pores of 0.15 μm in diameter are scattered in areolae, mainly around the periphery of the cell. The right valve has a specific ovoid depression with numerous appressed pores; we named this structure the sieve-like depression. The periflagellar area is nearly ovoid, located in a shallow depression, and almost equally set into both valves. It is unornamented (no apical expansion) but has numerous depressions in platelets. The flagellar and auxiliary pores are different in size and shape. The intercalary band is transversally striated. Phylogenetic relationships of gonyaulacoid, peridinioid, gymnodinioid, and prorocentroid dinoflagellates were inferred from complete 18S rDNA sequences. Two distinct phylogenetic analyses are presented for armored and unarmored Dinophyceae in an attempt to make the phylogenetic relationships between these different kinds of organisms clearer. The Prorocentrales appear to have a common origin, although two groups of Prorocentrum spp. are apparent. The first group includes benthic, symmetrical species (P. lima, P. arenarium, P. maculosum, and P. concavum). The second group contains planktonic and bentho-planktonic species (P. micans Ehrenberg, P. minimum, P. mexicanum, and P. panamensis sp. nov.). Genetic distances between species within these two groups were high; however, the divergence between the two groups seems to have occurred late in dinoflagellate evolution. In addition, the bentho-planktonic P. emarginatum appeared distantly related to both groups; however,its 18S rDNA sequence shares specific nucleotide substitutions with the two groups, suggesting an older origin of this species compared to the others. A morphological interpretation of this phylogenetic analysis is made on the basis of the specific structure of the periflagellar area. Finally, genetic data and morphological observations support the hypothesis that the genus Prorocentrum is rather heterogeneous; several species could be considered to constitute distinct genera.