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Keywords:

  • Baltic Sea;
  • dinoflagellate;
  • DNA content;
  • dormancy;
  • flow cytometry resting cyst;
  • Scrippsiella hangoei

Scrippsiella hangoei (Schiller) Larsen is a peridinoid dinoflagellate that grows during winter and spring in the Baltic Sea. In culture this species formed round, smooth cysts when strains were mixed, indicating heterothallic sexuality and hypnozygote production. However, cysts of the same morphology were also formed in clonal strains exposed to slightly elevated temperature. To better understand the role of cysts in the life cycle of S. hangoei, cyst formation and dormancy were examined in culture experiments and the cellular DNA content of flagellate cells and cysts was compared in clonal and mixed strains using flow cytometry. S. hangoei exhibited a high rate of cyst formation in culture. Cysts produced in both clonal and mixed strain cultures were thick-walled and underwent a dormancy period of 4 months before germinating. The S. hangoei flagellate cell population DNA distributions consisted of 1C, intermediate, and 2C DNA, indicative of respective eukaryotic cell cycle phases G1, S, and G2M. The majority (>95%) of cysts had a measured DNA content equivalent to the lower 1C DNA value, indicating a haploid nuclear phase and an asexual mode of cyst formation. A small percentage (<5%) of cysts produced in the mixed strain culture had 2C DNA, and thus could have been diploid zygotes. These findings represent the first measurements of dinoflagellate resting cyst DNA content, and provide the first quantitative evidence for dinoflagellate asexual resting cysts. Asexual resting cysts may be a more common feature of dinoflagellate life cycles than previously thought.