2008 Volume 3 Issue 3 Pages 135-142
The armored dinoflagellate genus Heterocapsa is composed of relatively small species, including a species responsible for harmful red tides, H. circularisquama. Some Heterocapsa species such as H. rotundata and H. triquetra have been well documented as red tide-forming species, but are not recognized as causing harmful effects. Following sequential shellfish mass mortalities in the coastal waters of western Japan due to H. circularisquama red tides, this species has attracted considerable interest. Many properties of this species, such as its distribution and growth characteristics, have been investigated to better understand the mechanisms involved in harmful red tide formation. Related to the need for unambiguous identification of H. circularisquama, several unidentified (or undescribed) Heterocapsa species, which must be distinguished from the harmful taxon, have been detected sympatrically in regions where H. circularisquama blooms occur. However, the taxonomic affiliation of these Heterocapsa species have not yet been determined because several characteristics of Heterocapsa (e.g. body scale ultrastructure) have not yet been reported from all described species due to the changing taxonomic criteria. After the taxonomic ambiguities in this genus were resolved, cellular and body scale morphology of Heterocapsa were reinvestigated and several new species were described. In the present paper, the taxonomic history and morphological characters of the genus Heterocapsa are summarized.