How to Classify Algae

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Algae are plant-like organisms found in marine environments, damp soil and on bark and other places where there is sunlight and water, including swimming pools and roof gutters. Some forms are single-celled, while others are multi-celled and can grow to be hundreds of feet long. Algae are important in the ecosystem, producing more than 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe and providing nourishment for life in the oceans, lakes and rivers. Scientists who study algae -- phycologists -- classify algae by color, complexity and kingdom.

  • Classify different species of algae by the different photosynthetic pigment colors in their cells' chloroplasts. There are four main groups in this classification system: Green algae, brown algae, golden-brown algae and red algae. You can find algae displaying these different colors when you go to the beach and see various types of seaweed washing up on the shore.

  • Divide algae by categories of increasing complexity. The first category is unicellular algae, which is a single-celled organism living by itself. The second category is colonial algae, in which individual cells that are capable of living separately form a cluster, or colony. The third category is filamentous algae, which are long chains of identical or nearly identical cells that are capable of living separately but form a group. The fourth category is multicellular algae, which can be simple with similar cells or complex with specialized cells. One example of complex multicellular algae is seaweed that has specialized cells forming root-like structures used to fasten onto rocks.

  • Group algae into different kingdoms using genetic comparisons. Members of the Euglenozoa Kingdom live in fresh water and can move using flagella and get energy from photosynthesis. Kingdom Stramenopila contains brown algae. Kingdom Alveolata contains algae known as ciliates and dinoflagellates. Kingdom Plantae contains green algae.

References

  • Photo Credit multicolored algae image by Nikolai Sorokin from Fotolia.com
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