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The life cycle research of the past years has revealed an unexpectedly high diversity of reproduction and survival strategies. Dinoflagellate life cycles often seem to be plastic, i.e. different pathways and mechanisms may be complementary in one and the same species. The diversity of life cycle stages, strategies and regulation mechanisms will have implications for the understanding of ecological processes and functions. Versatility in reproduction and survival strategies will affect genetic diversity patterns and standing genetic variation which are important factors in adaptation to changing conditions and stability against environmental disturbance. Complex regulation mechanisms and multiple cues for life cycle transformations can lead to differences in the magnitude of cyst formation and sedimentation and thereby determine the fate of primary production. Life cycles are an important life history trait of dinoflagellates which, in their versatility and complexity, contribute to the functional diversity that structures and determines the functioning of aquatic systems.

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