Green algae

The green algae (singular: green alga) are a large, informal grouping of algae consisting of the Chlorophyta and Charophyta/Streptophyta, which are now placed in separate divisions, as well as the potentially more basal Mesostigmatophyceae, Chlorokybophyceae and Spirotaenia. The land plants, or embryophytes, are thought to have emerged from the charophytes. Therefore, cladistically, embryophytes belong to green algae as well. However, because the embryophytes are traditionally classified as neither algae nor green algae, green algae are a paraphyletic group. Since the realization that the embryophytes emerged from within the green algae, some authors are starting to include them. The clade that includes both green algae and embryophytes is monophyletic and is referred to as the clade Viridiplantae and as the kingdom Plantae. The green algae include unicellular and colonial flagellates, most with two flagella per cell, as well as various colonial, coccoid and filamentous forms, and macroscopic, multicellular seaweeds. There are about 8,000 species of green algae. Many species live most of their lives as single cells, while other species form coenobia (colonies), long filaments, or highly differentiated macroscopic seaweeds. A few other organisms rely on green algae to conduct photosynthesis for them. The chloroplasts in euglenids and chlorarachniophytes were acquired from ingested green algae, and in the latter retain a nucleomorph (vestigial nucleus). Green algae are also found symbiotically in the ciliate Paramecium, and in Hydra viridissima and in flatworms. Some species of green algae, particularly of genera Trebouxia of the class Trebouxiophyceae and Trentepohlia (class Ulvophyceae), can be found in symbiotic associations with fungi to form lichens. In general the fungal species that partner in lichens cannot live on their own, while the algal species is often found living in nature without the fungus. Trentepohlia is a filamentous green alga that can live independently on humid soil, rocks or tree bark or form the photosymbiont in lichens of the family Graphidaceae. Also the macroalga Prasiola calophylla (Trebouxiophyceae) is terrestrial, and Prasiola crispa, which live in the supralittoral zone, is terrestrial and can in the Antarctic form large carpets on humid soil, especially near bird colonies.


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