By far, this is the most common question we receive about dinoflagellates (dinos). And, it’s with good reason – if dinos were animals, a hand-held dinosaur would be a small space to raise them in!

If you’re concerned about the wellness of your dino friends, allow us to put your mind at seas with a little Dino Education. 🐳

So… are dinos animals?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: dinoflagellates are single-celled marine plankton. More than 2,000 species of dinoflagellates have been documented, but the dinos found in Dino Pets and Dino Spheres are Pyrocystis Fusiformis, a photosynthetic and non-toxic phytoplankton.

Kingdom of Life Chart
Creative Commons “Five Kingdoms” by Siyavula Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While dinos support most marine animals – as they reside on the bottom of the food chain – they are not animals themselves. Instead, dinoflagellates are considered to be protists, similar to kelp, algae, or slime molds.

Dinoflagellates do not have brains, nor nervous systems. Instead of eating, dinos produce complex organic compounds through photosynthesis and the absorption of nutrients.

If it helps, you can consider dinos to be the “prairie grass” of the ocean. In fact, more than half of the world’s oxygen is produced by dinoflagellates and other phytoplankton!

Is it harmful to shake my Dino?

Not at all!

Dinoflagellates exist in tumultuous environments in the natural world. They’re used to cruising with the currents and crashing with the waves, so a little shake is nothing they aren’t well accustomed to.

bioluminescence-in-harbor
Creative Commons “Noctiluca Scintillans” by Wikipedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

To elicit bioluminescence, we recommend gentle shaking or rocking.

And, remember: dinoflagellates are not animals. Certainly, they are living organisms, but they’re more similar to the organisms used to make your beer, bread or yogurt – which contain the living microorganisms, yeast and lactobacillus – than fish, cats or dogs.

You exert more “harm” by pruning trees than shaking dinos 😉.

 

Got it. But, aren’t you harming the oceans by putting dinos into Dino Pets and Dino Spheres?

Dinoflagellate Aqua Farm

Although we collected a few dinos off the coast of San Diego to start our original culture, today, our dinos are continuously reproducing in our aqua farm so as not to impact the environment or global dino population.

Our hope is that the Dino Pets and Dino Spheres educate and encourage others to learn more about our oceans while inspiring people to become better eco-citizens.

Dinoflagellate Aqua Farm

 

Why do dinos light up?

Scientists don’t know the exact reason why dinoflagellates emit bioluminescence, but a popular hypothesis is the Burglar-Alarm Theory.

When a predator disturbs the dinos’ environment, the dinos’ natural light reveals the location of the predator. In turn, the predator becomes a meal for an even larger fish, preventing the predator from further consumption of the dinoflagellates.

Although – because dinoflagellates have a circadian rhythm (a 24-hour biological clock) – dinos only emit bioluminescence at night. In California, where we grow dinos at our facilities, this occurs between 5PM PST – 5AM PST, depending on the time of year.

BioPop Team Photo

At BioPop, our mission is to inspire human connectivity with the natural world. Because of this, we always invite you to explore, ask questions and stay curious about the natural wonders surrounding you.

If you ever have questions about BioPop or our products, always feel free to shoot us an email at contact@biopop.com or reach out to us on social media.

#StayLit, friends!

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