When many of us think about the algae, an image of the gross scum floating in fish tanks and ponds often comes to our minds. But, algae does not exist to be a pollutant. In fact, they do the exact opposite. Algae happen to be the most important organisms on our planet.
Algae are the large and diverse group of eukaryotic organisms which belong to Kingdom Protista. There are about 72,500 species of algae which can be found in different parts of the world. A high number of species live in the freshwater and marine ecosystems, whereas some can be live on land.
Some algae are well adapted to the life in very extreme conditions: boiling water (in the Yellowstone Park) or Polar Regions (they live on the snow). Based on the species, algae can be sessile (spend their life attached to a substrate) or free-floating organisms. Perhaps, you are eager to learn more about algae. Here are some interesting facts about these organisms.
1. Brown algae mainly live in the tidal zones of temperate to polar seas, but some can be found in the deep ocean. Among the brown algae are the biggest and most complex of the algae; common forms include the free-floating sargassum weed and the giant kelp.
2. Algae can comprise of only one or a high number of cells. They can be extremely large, or microscopically small, about 200 feet long (kelp).
3. The oceans cover nearly 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet algae produce over 71 percent of the global oxygen content; in fact, a number of scientists believe that these organisms contribute 87 percent of the oxygen worldwide.
4. In some parts of the Indian Ocean, the surface of the sea lights up at night. It’s very bright such that one can read a newspaper. Tiny sea algae, the Dino-flagellata causes this light. At times the lightened surface can cover an area of more than 1.77km2.
5. Several wastewater treatment facilities use algae to reduce the need for dangerous chemicals, and some power plants also use it to lower emissions of carbon dioxide.
6. Algae have chlorophyll, photosynthetic pigment and can produce their food. The chlorophyll facilitates the absorption of light and the food manufacture in a process known as photosynthesis (conversion of water and carbon dioxide into sugar). Both terrestrial and aquatic animals use oxygen, released as a by-product, for breathing.
7. Red algae are essential members of the coral reefs. Red algae are rare among the algae since they can contain calcium carbonate in their cell walls which make the plants hard and highly resistant to wear.
8. Red algae are used in the treatment of urinary infections, cold sores, stomach disorders, asthma and to improve the immune system and reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.
9. Algae play a crucial role in the aquatic ecosystems. They offer shelter for different animals and serve as food for most fish.
10. While some algae look like plants, they lack roots, leaves, stomata, xylem and phloem which are typical for the vascular plants. Certain algae have an amoeba-like body and ability to hunt actively and kill prey (such as animals).
11. Seaweed is the biggest marine algae in existence – several forms of seaweed such as spirulina and kelp are very nutritious and classified as a Superfood.
12. Algae spread primarily by the dispersal of spores analogously to the dispersal of Plantae by spores and seeds. Spores exist everywhere in all regions of the Earth: the waters marine and fresh, the atmosphere, free-floating and mixed with dust or in precipitation, the humus and in specific organisms, like humans.
13. Algae are prominent in water bodies, common in the terrestrial environments and exist in unique environments, such as on ice and snow. Seaweeds grow mainly in the shallow marine waters, under 100 meters (330 ft.); though scientists have recorded some to a depth of 360 meters (1,180 ft.).