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Algae in Aquatic, Marine, and Terrestrial Systems. General Biology, Systematics, Ecology, and Environmental Impact. Algae in Aquatic, Marine, and Terrestrial Systems. Polyphyletic group: multiple genealogies Prokaryotic algae (cyanobacteria) and Eukaryotic algae (protistans; not true plants)

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Algae in Aquatic, Marine, and Terrestrial Systems

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Algae in Aquatic, Marine, and Terrestrial Systems

General Biology, Systematics, Ecology, and Environmental Impact

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Algae in Aquatic, Marine, and Terrestrial Systems

  • Polyphyletic group: multiple genealogies

  • Prokaryotic algae (cyanobacteria) and Eukaryotic algae (protistans; not true plants)

  • Autotrophy

  • Body form: unicellular, filamentous, and multicellular

  • Diverse group: Over 26,900 eukaryotic algal species described.

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Divisions (Phyla) of Algae

  • Prokaryotic Algae

    • Division Cyanophyta (cyanobacteria or blue-green algae)

    • not the first photosynthetic organisms, but ancient (3.5 billion years based on fossil record)

    • one organelle is present in the form of simple, flattened vesicles called thylakoids (2 photosystems present)

    • Chlorophyll a, phycobiliproteins; prochlorophytes are related species that possess chlorophyll a, b, and (c)

    • Carbohydrate Reserve: Starch

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Single-celled to filamentous blue-green alga or cyanobacterium

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Colonial Cyanobacterium

  • Gleocapsa

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Filamentous to semi-multicellular Cyanobacterium

  • Nostoc

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Filamentous Cyanobacterium

  • Oscillatoria

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Divisions of Eukaryotic Algae

  • Division Rhodophyta (red algae)

  • Division Chlorophyta (green algae)

  • Division Chromophyta (= Chrysophyta - golden brown algae, yellow-green algae, diatoms; and Phaeophyta - the brown algae, for example, kelps)

  • Division Haptophyta

  • Division Dinophyta (= Pyrrophyta - dinoflagellates)

  • Division Cryptophyta (cryptomonads)

  • Division Euglenophyta (Euglena spp.)

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Photosynthetic Pigments & Food Reserves

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Unicellular Green Alga

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Conjugation – Sexual Reproduction

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Filamentous Green Alga

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Colonial Green Alga

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Multicellular Green Algae

Ulva - sea lettuce

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Desmid - Cosmarium

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Dinoflagellate Algae

  • Cellulose-containing armor plates that give them a sculpted appearance

  • most species found in salt-water environments

  • common cause of red tides - algal blooms

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Red Algae

Smithora naiadum - a epiphyte on eel and surf grass

Porphyra - nori use to wrap uncooked fish & other food items

Pikea robusta

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Brown algae

Fucus sp.

Nereocystis luekeana

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Alaskan Kelp Forest

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Beneficial Aspects of Algae

  • Food for humans

  • Food for invertebrates and fishes in mariculture

  • Animal feed

  • Soil fertilizers and conditioners in agriculture

  • Treatment of waste water

  • Diatomaceous earth (= diatoms)

  • Chalk deposits

  • Phycocolloids (agar, carrageenan from red algae; alginates from brown algae)

  • Drugs

  • Model system for research

  • Phycobiliproteins for fluorescence microscopy

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Detrimental Aspects of Algae

  • Blooms of freshwater algae

  • Red tides and marine blooms

  • Toxins accumulated in food chains

  • Damage to cave paintings, frescoes, and other works of art

  • Fouling of ships and other submerged surfaces

  • Fouling of the shells of commercially important bivalves

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Red tide bloom

  • Prorocentrum micans bloom

  • Associated with Hurricane Floyd, which ended a dry summer

  • surface of water slick with this dinoflagellate


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Algal Bloom: Before and After



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Red Tide

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Satellite Imagery of Red Tides

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Toxic Phytoplankton & Human poisoning

  • Paralytic shellfish poisoning - saxitoxin

  • Neurotxic shellfish poisoning - brevetoxin

  • Ciguatera fish poisoning - ciguatoxin and maitotoxin

  • Diarrhetic shellfish poisoning - okadaic acid

  • Amnesic shellfish poisoning - domoic acid

  • Cyanobacterial neurotoxins - anatoxins

  • Cyanobacterial hepatotoxins - microcystin, nodularin

  • Dermatitis - lyngbyatoxin, aplysiatoxin

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Bird Sudden Death Syndrome

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Bird Sudden Death Syndrome

  • DeGray Lake, Arkansas; Eagles migrate to area in October and stay through March

  • Eagles eat fish, the American coot, and other prey items

  • Winter 1994-1995, 29 eagles were found dead or died of a neurological malady

  • Winter 1996-1997, pattern repeated itself, leaving 26 bald eagles dead

  • Die-off of eagles has been reported in North Carolina and Georgia

  • Coots have been reported to suffer similar symptoms and mortality outbreaks

  • Why? No one knows? Algal toxins?

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