noun - Dinoflagellates (Greek δῖνος dinos "whirling" and Latin flagellum "whip, scourge") are a large group of flagellate protists. Most are marine plankton, but they are common in fresh water habitats, as well. Their populations are distributed depending on temperature, salinity, or depth. Many dinoflagellates are known to be photosynthetic, but a large fraction of these are in fact mixotrophic, combining photosynthesis with ingestion of prey.
Being primary producers makes them an important part of the aquatic food chain. Some species, called zooxanthellae, are endosymbionts of marine animals and play an important part in the biology of coral reefs. Other dinoflagellates are colorless predators on other protozoa, and a few forms are parasitic (see for example Oodinium, Pfiesteria).
An algal bloom of dinoflagellates can result in a visible coloration of the water colloquially known as Red tide.