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A variety of algae growing on the sea bed in shallow waters

Algae (/ˈæli, ˈælɡi/; singular alga /ˈælɡə/) is an informal term for a large, diverse group of photosynthetic organisms that are not necessarily closely related, and is thus polyphyletic. Included organisms range from unicellular microalgae genera, such as Chlorella and the diatoms, to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelp, a large brown alga which may grow up to 50 m in length. Most are aquatic and autotrophic and lack many of the distinct cell and tissue types, such as stomata, xylem, and phloem, which are found in land plants. The largest and most complex marine algae are called seaweeds, while the most complex freshwater forms are the Charophyta, a division of green algae which includes, for example, Spirogyra and the stoneworts.

No definition of algae is generally accepted. One definition is that algae "have chlorophyll as their primary photosynthetic pigment and lack a sterile covering of cells around their reproductive cells". Some authors exclude all prokaryotes and thus do not consider cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) as algae.

Algae constitute a polyphyletic group since they do not include a common ancestor, and although their plastids seem to have a single origin, from cyanobacteria, they were acquired in different ways. Green algae are examples of algae that have primary chloroplasts derived from endosymbiotic cyanobacteria. Diatoms and brown algae are examples of algae with secondary chloroplasts derived from an endosymbiotic red alga. Read more...

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A coenobium (plural coenobia) is a colony containing a fixed number of cells, with little or no specialization. They occur in several groups of algae. The cells are often embedded in a mucilaginous matrix and may be motile or non-motile.

Examples include Volvox and its relatives, Scenedesmus, Pediastrum, and Hydrodictyon. Read more...

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Chondrus crispus - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-034.jpg

The red algae, or Rhodophyta (/rˈdɒfɪtə/ roh-DOF-it-ə, /ˌrdəˈftə/ ROH-də-FY-tə; from Ancient Greek ῥόδον (rhodon), meaning 'rose', and φυτόν (phyton), meaning 'plant'), are one of the oldest groups of eukaryotic algae. The Rhodophyta also comprises one of the largest phyla of algae, containing over 7,000 currently recognized species with taxonomic revisions ongoing. The majority of species (6,793) are found in the Florideophyceae (class), and mostly consist of multicellular, marine algae, including many notable seaweeds. Approximately 5% of the red algae occur in freshwater environments with greater concentrations found in the warmer area. There are no terrestrial species, which is assumed to be traced back to an evolutionary bottleneck where the last common ancestor lost about 25% of its core genes and much of its evolutionary plasticity.

The red algae form a distinct group characterized by having eukaryotic cells without flagella and centrioles, chloroplasts that lack external endoplasmic reticulum and contain unstacked (stoma) thylakoids, and use phycobiliproteins as accessory pigments, which give them their red color. Red algae store sugars as floridean starch, which is a type of starch that consists of highly branched amylopectin without amylose, as food reserves outside their plastids. Most red algae are also multicellular, macroscopic, marine, and reproduce sexually. The red algal life history is typically an alternation of generations that may have three generations rather than two. Read more...

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