What are Algae?
Algae Definition: Algae is a term that describes a large and incredibly diverse group of eukaryotic, photosynthetic lifeforms which includes multicellular seaweeds and unicellular diatoms. These organisms do not share a common ancestor and hence, are not related to each other (polyphyletic).
Most algae require a moist or watery environment, hence, they are very common near or inside water bodies. Anatomically, 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.
Types of Algae
There are many types of algae classified by science, however, these are some of the more prominent types:
One of the most well-known types of algae is blue-green algae. Also called cyanobacteria, this type of algae is most commonly observed in dams, rivers, reservoirs, creeks, lakes and etc. This class of bacteria usually acts like a plant whereby, it obtains energy through the process of photosynthesis. Ecologically, blue-green algae are very important to the environment as it fixes the nitrogen in the soil. Hence, it is also called as nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
However, this type of algae can be toxic to human beings. They can either be neurotoxic(affects the respiratory or nervous system, causing paralysis) or hepatotoxic (causes the liver to fail). This type of bacteria is found in lichens, Anthoceros etc.
Also Read: Rhizobium – The Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria
It is also called as Rhodophyta and is a distinctive type of species that are mostly found in the freshwater lakes. This eukaryotic algae also happens to be one of the oldest plant-like fossils ever discovered, dating back to more than 1.6 billion years ago. The colour of red algae is attributed to the pigments phycocyanin and phycoerythrin. The other pigments within it include chlorophyll A. They lack chlorophyll B or beta-carotene.
Extended Reading: Red Algae
It is a large group of bacteria that help other organisms to undergo photosynthesis. Green algae have primary pigments such as chlorophyll A and B, along with auxiliary pigments such as xanthophylls and beta carotene. Members are unicellular and colonial flagellates. Prominent examples of green algae include Paramecium, hydra etc.
Characteristics of Algae
Typically, general characteristics of algae are common to plants as well as animals. For instance, algae can photosynthesize like plants, and they possess specialized structures and components such as centrioles and flagella found only in animals.
Algae can be either unicellular or multicellular organisms
Algaes are generally found in the tissues of other plants or on the rocks in moist places.
Reproduction in algae occurs in both asexual and sexual forms. Asexual reproduction occurs by spore formation.
Most of them are generally found in water and are aquatic in nature, especially plankton. These are of a free-floating type.
Algae lack a well-defined body, so, structures like roots, stems or leaves are absent.
Algae are photosynthetic organisms.
Examples of Algae
Prominent examples of algae include:
Other less, well-known examples of algae include:
Recent developments in science and technology have led to algae being used as an alternate source of fuel. Algal biofuel or algae fuel is an increasingly viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. It is used to produce everything from “green” diesel to “green” jet fuel. It is similar to the other biofuels made from corn and sugar-cane.
Questions on Algae
1. What are Algae?
Algae is a large, diverse group of eukaryotic, photosynthetic organisms that are not necessarily related to each other.
2. How are algae different from traditional plants?
Unlike traditional plants, algae do not have true roots, stems and leaves. Hence, they need to be near a moist or a watery environment to survive. In other words, they do not possess vascular tissue necessary for conduction of water and minerals.
3. Briefly outline the types of algae.
Algae are primarily classified into the following types:
- Blue-green Algae
- Red Algae
- Green Algae
4. State the major characteristics of algae.
- Either unicellular or multicellular organisms
- Found in moist places.
- Reproduction occurs sexually and sexually.
- Asexual reproduction occurs by spore formation.
- Lacks a well-defined body.
- They are photosynthetic in nature.
5. State 4 examples of algae.
For more detailed information about Algae and its characteristics features, explore BYJU’S Biology.