Characteristics of Red & Green Algae

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  • 0:00 Sushi
  • 0:23 Green Algae
  • 2:49 Red Algae
  • 4:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

If you don't like to eat plants, like vegetables, then maybe you're a fan of eating something that shares a common ancestor with plant. Care to know what this is? Let's go over the basic characteristics of red and green algae and find out together!


Who doesn't love sushi!? From the yummy rice to the plethora of choices it can be made with - be it avocadoes or tuna or a combination of a bunch of different stuff. And you know what else is used to make sushi? Well, you'll soon learn what else you're eating with every bite as we define and go over the characteristics of red and green algae.

Green Algae

Green algae are algae that derive their name from their green chloroplasts, ones that are similar to the chloroplasts found in land plants. And there, I sort of gave away a really key characteristic of green algae; some green algae are related more closely to land plants more so than they are related to other kinds of green algae.

Green algae are also a paraphyletic group, a kind of taxonomic group that has a common ancestor but does not include all of the descendants of that common ancestor. Let me explain what that means a bit more using more familiar living creatures since it might be a confusing term and definition nonetheless. Fish have a common ancestor. That common ancestor gave rise to fish, mammals and birds. But fish themselves are grouped distinctly from mammals and birds, even though all three of them have a common ancestor. That's why fish are said to be paraphyletic.

In our case, red and green algae evolved from a common ancestor and the lineage that produced green algae is one that later allowed for land plants to evolve as well. Green algae themselves have two main groups. They are the charophytes, green algae that are closely related to land plants, and chlorophytes, green algae comprised of over 7,000 species of aquatic organisms.

Charophytes are the one and only algae around today that have very particular traits shared closely with land plants. For example, land plants that have flagellated sperm (sperm with tails) have sperm that is very close in its structure to the sperm of certain charophytes. Additionally, genetic analysis of chloroplasts found in algae and plants has also found that charophytes are closely related to land plants. I want to emphasize that this doesn't mean land plants have descended from charophytes, it only means that they are closely related and that charophytes tell us a bit about what the ancestors of plants were like.

Clorophytes live in fresh water, salt water and on land. They reproduce sexually. Some chlorophytes live alone, while others congregate with other eukaryotic organisms in a symbiotic manner, so they live in a community manner.

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