Toxic and nontoxic species of marine dinoflagellates were characterized using fluorescent lectins. Lectin binding was detected by epifluorescence as well as spectrofluorometry. The binding assay of fluorescent lectins readily differentiated between morphologically similar species (i.e the toxic dinoflagellate Gymnodinium catenatum and the nontoxic Gymnodinium sp.). Lectins appear to be a useful tool to distinguish among different clones of the same species and, thus, possibly as a tool in dinoflagellate identification. Moreover, the lectins used show that thecate species have more binding sites and diversity in glycan moieties than athecate species.