Oceanic and coastal bioluminescence in surface waters, in many instances, is produced by microscopic dinoflagellates. Their light emission is usually observed at a maximum during the night hours and markedly inhibited during the day. This diel periodicity has never been observed in situ for identified species and never before in heterotrophic Protoperidinium dinoflagellates. Pronounced differences in stimulable bioluminescence measured with bathyphotometers in Vestfjord, Norway in September 1990 correlated with simultaneous ship-board laboratory experiments. Cells of both the photosynthetic Ceratium fusus and heterotrophic Protoperidinium curtipes showed a pronounced inhibition of bioluminescence during the day and maximum bioluminescence at night.