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Algae

Algae (sing. alga) can be described as eukaryotic life forms that


perform the oxygen-producing process called photosynthesis,
posses the photosynthesis pigment chlorophyll a and have a cell
wall made up from the glucose-made polymer cellulose;
Algal Cell Structure
Algae are eukaryotic cells, or cells that contain a nucleus, which
makes them slightly more complex than bacteria. They also
contain chloroplasts, which are structures that generate energy
for the cell through photosynthesis. Other structures that algae
may have vary greatly. Some algae have silica exoskeletons,
flagella for movement or other structures. The pigment used for
photosynthesis can even vary, resulting in algae that appear green, red, or brown.
Algae are

ranging

from unicellular genera

such

as Chlorella and

the diatoms to multicellular forms such as the giant kelp, a large brown alga that may grow up to
50 meters in length. Most are autotrophic and lack many of the distinct cell and tissue types
found in land plants such as stomata, xylem and phloem. The largest and most complex marine
algae are called seaweeds, while the most complex freshwater forms are the Charophyta,
a division of algae that includes Spirogyra and the stoneworts.
Ultra structure of Algae
All eukaryotic algae share some basic structures and cell components which are:
a. a thin, rigid cell wall
- usually made up from cellulose
- some algae show an flexible, gelatinous outer matrix

MAGENDIRA MANI VINAYAGAM/ ACADEMIA.EDU/ Asst. Prof. IC., VNB.

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b. some show one or more flagella


- cell protrusions for motility/movement
c. typical eukaryotic nucleus with pores
- contains chromatin, nucleolus, karyolymph
d. chloroplasts with enclosed thylacoids
- place of photosynthesis
e. often with a pyrenoid
- a dense, proteinaceous area that is associated
with synthesis storage of the glucose polymer
starch;
f. differently shaped mitochondria
- lamellar, discoid or tubular cristae
g. metabolism can be either phototrophic or heterotrophic
- although most algae are phototrophs
- but some algae, such as Chlorella, can survive with external organic compounds as
carbon- and/or energy source
h. some algae - instead of being single-celled, have a rather complex
- shaped vegetative body called a thallus
- often seen in multicellular algae forms such as kelp some algae are colonial, filamentous
or blade-like
i. some algae reproduce asexually
- gametes do not fuse with each other to form a zygote
- three types of asexual reproduction are observed amongst algae:
- fragmentation
- a thallus breaks off and each fragment part grows to form a new thallus
- spores
- usually round structures either formed in vegetative cells or in specialized structures
called sporangia
MAGENDIRA MANI VINAYAGAM/ ACADEMIA.EDU/ Asst. Prof. IC., VNB.

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- when the spores are motile due to flagella we speak of zoospores


- non-motile spores produced by sporangia are referred to as aplanospores;
- binary fission
- bacteria-like, rapid cell division usually performed by uni-cellular algae
k. some algae reproduce via sexual reproduction
- eggs are formed in relatively unmodified vegetative cells called oogonia which function as
female structures
- usually motile sperm are produced in special male reproductive structures called
antheridia.

Some algae are microscopically small and consist of only one cell (= unicellular algae),
while others are large and are multi-cellular; the largest algae are brown algae (or kelp)
which can reach lengths of up to 70 - 100 feet.

Algae can be found in very different habitats. Most algae are found in fresh or marine
waters where they are either freely drifting/floating or are attached to rocks or other life
forms via special holdfasts; a few algae manage to grow on land where they live on trees,
other life forms, rocks or in moist soil;

Algae play an important ecological role on planet earth. They not only generate new
oxygen (O2) via photosynthesis which they release into the air, but they also serve as
food for many small herbivorous life forms, such as mollusks.

Perhaps the greatest diversity in form and function at the cellular level in eukaryotes is found
in the algae. It is estimated that there are over 34,500 species described with 200400,000
estimated to exist in the biosphere. Algae are mainly aquatic organisms; many gametes and
zoospores demonstrate swimming abilities. Reproduction methods in algae are also
tremendously diverse and perhaps more diverse than any other microbe or cell type. Many
algae can exist in moist environments and in harsh climates like the desert where they can be
found in the surface cracks in stones and building structures like concrete structures and
roofs. Algae can be found on the surface of plants as well as on the abundant surfaces
provided by ice and snow. Algae are also one of the most intimate of all symbiotic partners,
MAGENDIRA MANI VINAYAGAM/ ACADEMIA.EDU/ Asst. Prof. IC., VNB.

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living within cells and internal spaces of many aquatic organisms where they provide
nutrition by essentially harvesting solar power. For instance, the solar powered sea slug uses
surgical precision to disrupt algae cells obtaining intact chloroplasts which it then inserts into
sun-exposed cells on its dorsal surface (Hennigan 2008). Algae are also one of the key
symbiotic partners in lichens.

Examples of the tremendous diversity in cell form of the microscopic planktonic algae in freshwater.
Epilithic = growing on rocks, Epipsammic = growing in sand, Epipelic = growing in sediments,
Epiphytic = growing on plants.

MAGENDIRA MANI VINAYAGAM/ ACADEMIA.EDU/ Asst. Prof. IC., VNB.

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Algae are not known to populate many terrestrial land animals but they have been found growing
on human teeth and they live symbiotically on the specially designed fur of sloths where they
may provide camouflage for the sloth in addition to a unique miniature ecosystem which
includes microbes and insects.
Algae are a vital link in the aquatic food chain and they play a major role in the global carbon
cycle; it is estimated that they harvest as much or more carbon from the atmosphere than all the
terrestrial plants.

Examples of the tremendous diversity in cell form of the microscopic planktonic algae in seawater.
Epilithic = growing on rocks, Epipsammic = growing in sand, Epipelic = growing in sediments,
Epiphytic = growing on plants.
MAGENDIRA MANI VINAYAGAM/ ACADEMIA.EDU/ Asst. Prof. IC., VNB.

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