What are Algae?
Algae exist in environments ranging from oceans, rivers, and lakes to ponds, brackish waters and even snow. Algae are usually green, but they can be found in a variety of different colours.
Definition: “Alga is a term that describes a large and incredibly diverse group of eukaryotic, photosynthetic lifeforms. These organisms do not share a common ancestor and hence, are not related to each other (polyphyletic).”
- Multicellular examples of algae include the giant kelp and brown algae.
- Unicellular examples include diatoms, Euglenophyta and Dinoflagellates.
Most algae require a moist or watery environment; hence, they are ubiquitous near or inside water bodies. Anatomically, they are similar to another major group of photosynthetic organisms – the land plants. However, that is where the differences end as algae lack many structural components typically present in plants, such as true stems, shoots, and leaves. Furthermore, they also do not have vascular tissues to circulate essential nutrients and water throughout their body.
Characteristics of Algae
- Algae are chlorophyll-bearing, simple, thalloid, autotrophic, and largely aquatic plants.
- The term "Algae" was given by Linnaeus.
- Phycology- Study of algae
- Father of Phycology- Fritsch → Book → "Structure & Reproduction of algae"
- Father of Indian phycology- Mandayam Osuri Parthasarathy Iyengar.
Nature of Algae
- Algae are found in both fresh and marine water.
- Algae are found in many forms like filamentous, colonial.
- Algae are surrounded by a mucilaginous sheath, and below the sheath, the cell wall is present which is made up of cellulose and pectin but mainly made up of cellulose, Galatians, mannans, and mineral-like calcium carbonate.
- On the basis of structure, algae are thalloid, i.e. plant body is not differentiated into root, stem, and leaves. The tissue system is also absent in algae.
- On the basis of nutrition, algae are photoautotrophic. They have chloroplast in which photosynthetic pigments are present. Classification of algae is mainly based on pigments. Chl-a and b carotene are universal pigments of algae.
Try yourself:These questions consist of two statements, each printed as Assertion and Reason. While answering these questions, you are required to choose any one of the following five responses.
Assertion: Algae and fungi are classified as thallophytes.
Reason: They both are autotrophs.
Thallophyte includes plants in which body is not differentiated into root, stem and leaves. Algae and fungi have thallose plant body. Algae are autotrophs i.e. they can prepare their own food by photosynthesis. while fungi are heterotrophs.
Reproduction in Algae
- Vegetative Reproduction
By fragmentation, where each fragment develops into a thallus.
- Asexual Reproduction
By the production of flagellated zoospores which on germination give rise to new plants.
- Sexual Reproduction
- The male sex organ is called antheridium, and the female is called oogonium. The sex organs of algae are unicellular & jacketless. But exceptionally sex organs of green algae Chara (Chara- green algae- known as stonewort) are multi-cellular and jacketed.
- The male sex organ of Chara is known as globule, and the female is known as nucule.
- The plant body of algae is haploid, so sexual reproduction takes place through zygotic meiosis. So their life cycle is haplontic. But exceptionally brown algae are diploid so that sexual reproduction takes place through gametic meiosis in them. So their life cycle is Diplo haplontic.
- Algae reproduce by zygotic meiosis, i.e. first division in the zygote is meiosis so, the embryo is not formed.
Sexual reproduction is of three types:
- Isogamous: Chlamydomonas Debaryanum, Ulothrix, Ectocarpus
- Anisogamous: Chlamydomonas Braunii
- Oogamous: Chlamydomonas Coccifera, Sargassum, Volvox, Fucus
- Chlamydomonas exhibits complete evolution of sexual reproduction.
Isogamous- Simplest, Oogamous- Advanced.
- Ulothrix exhibits the origin of sexual reproduction. The classification of algae is mainly based on the photosynthetic pigments. In addition to this, cell wall composition and stored food are also the basis of classification.
Types of Algae
- Chlorophyceae: Green Algae
- It is a large, informal grouping of algae having the primary photosynthetic pigments chlorophyll a and b, along with auxiliary pigments such as xanthophylls and beta carotene.
- Higher organisms use green algae to conduct photosynthesis for them. Other species of green algae have a symbiotic relationship with other organisms.
- Members are unicellular, multicellular, colonial and flagellates. Prominent examples of green algae include Spirogyra, Ulothrix, Volvox, etc.
- Phaeophyceae: Brown Algae
- Brown algae are a group of algae belonging to class Phaeophyceae. They are named due to their colour, which varies from brown to olive green.
- They are mostly found in marine environments.
- There are around 1500 species of brown algae, which vary greatly in their size and shape.
- They are multicellular and the colour depends on the ratio of chlorophyll and the pigment, fucoxanthin.
- They contain seaweeds, some of the notable examples are Ectocarpus, Fucus, giant kelps, Sargassum, etc.
- Xanthophyceae: Yellow-Green Algae
- Yellow-green algae or the Xanthophyceae (xanthophytes) are an important group of heterokont algae.
- Most live in freshwater, but some are found in marine and soil habitats.
- They vary from single-celled flagellates to simple colonial and filamentous forms.
- Rhodophyceae: Red Algae
It is a distinctive species found in marine as well as freshwater ecosystems.
The pigments phycocyanin and phycoerythrin are responsible for the characteristic red colouration of the algae.
Other pigments that provide green colouration (such as chlorophyll-a) are present. However, they lack chlorophyll b or beta-carotene.
Chlorophyceae (Green Algae)
- Green algae are the most advanced algae. It is believed that green algae are the ancestors of higher plants.
- Habitat: Green algae are cosmopolitan in nature.
Different forms of Green algae (Structure):
A unicellular organism, also known as a single-celled organism, is an organism that consists of only one cell, unlike a multicellular organism that consists of more than one cell. Types of Unicellular Algae:
- Chlamydomonas: Motile unicellular algae. This alga moves with the help of flagella.
- Chlorella: Non-motile unicellular algae. Calvin discovered the "Calvin Cycle" by experimenting with Chlorella.
Chlorella Unicellular Alga
- Acetabularia: Umbrella plant - It is the largest unicellular plant. The diameter of its cell is 10 cm. Hammerling experimented on Acetabularia.
Acetabularia Umbrella Plant
- Coenocytic: Some green algae are coenocytic, i.e. multi-nucleated.
Note: According to the five-kingdom system the algae described above should be placed in Protista but exceptionally due to their life cycle, it is similar to green algae. They are placed in Plantae. But now modern scientist place above algae in Protista.Coenocytic
Some green algae are found in colonies. They form a colony of cells. The number of cells in a colony is fixed. A colony with a fixed number of cells is called coenobium.
Example: Volvox- Motile colony Hydrodictyon- Non-motile colony (called a water net).
- Multicellular Filamentous
Most algae are multi-cellular filamentous.
Example: Ulothrix- Known as pond wool, Spirogyra- Known as pond silk.
Note: Some green algae are heterotrichous i.e. two types of branches, prostrate and erect- Fritschiella, Stigeoclonium, Coleochaete (Fritschiella tuberose has an approach to the early land plants).
- Multicellular Thalloid or Parenchymatous
Some algae are multi-cellular in length & width.
Example: Ulva- also called sea lettuce.
- Photosynthetic Pigments
Economic Importance of Chlorophyceae
- Food: Chlorella is used as food, because after Spirulina, Chlorella has the largest amount of protein.
- Antibiotics: Chlorellin antibiotic is obtained from Chlorella.
- Space research: In space, Chlorella is used as a source of food and O2.
- Parasitic algae: Cephaleuros algae remains parasitically in the leaves of the tea plants and causes the disease 'red rust'.