Dr. Subhendu Datta Senior Scientist Kolkata, India Ref. Books. 1. The Algae, by V. J. Chapman, Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 2. Strasburger’s Text Book of Botany. Translated from German to English by W. H. Lang. Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 3. Freshwater Biology- edited by W. T. Edmondson, John Wiley and Sons Inc. Classification: Starts with division, which is equivalent to phylum. The older phycologists placed all the chlorophyll bearing organisms in a single sub-division called algae under the division Thallophyta. Such a grouping implies that these series of organisms are closely related. On this basis, they recognized 11 classes, which are Cyanophyceae (earlier Myxophyceae), Chlorophyceae, Xanthophyceae, Dinophyceae, Chloromonadineae, Euglenineae, Phacophyceae, Cryptophyceae, Chrysophyceae, Bacillariophyceae and Rhodophyceae. However, the modern phycologists don’t recognize any close relationship between the members of different classes of algae. During the second and third decades of the twentieth century a number of fundamental differences among the several series of algae were found. These convinced the modern phycologists that the different series of algae, in fact, denote a number of parallel lines of development. This viewpoint resulted in the dismemberment of the former division Thallophyta and sub-division Algae and the elevation of its classes to the rank of division. The modern algologists, therefore, classify these plants of algal organisms into 11 divisions, namely Cyanophyta, Chlorophyta, Xanthophyta, Pyrrophyta, Charophyta, Euglenophyta, Phacophyta, Cryptophyta, Chrysophyta, Bacillariophyta and Rhodophyta. The committee on the International code of Botanical Nomenclature has recommended certain suffixes for use in classification of Algae. These are ‘phyta’ for division, ‘phyceae’ for class, ‘phycidae’ for sub-class, ‘ales’ for order, ‘inales’ for sub-order, ‘aceae’ for family, ‘oideae’ for sub-family, Greek name for genus and Latin name for a species.
Plant kingdom Plant kingdom

Division: Thallophyta

Sub-division: Algae

Divisions: Cyanophyta, Chlorophyta, Xanthophyta, Pyrrophyta, Charophyta, Euglenophyta, Phacophyta, Cryptophyta, Chrysophyta, Bacillariophyta and Rhodophyta.

Modern classification
Classes: e.g. Cyanophyceae, Chlorophyceae, Xanthophyceae, Dinophyceae, Chloromonadineae, Euglenineae, Phacophyceae, Cryptophyceae, Chrysophyceae, Bacillariophyceae and Rhodophyceae.

Old classification


Characteristic differentiation between four main divisions of algae Characteristics Cell structure Cyanophyta (Blue green algae)
Procaryotic (simplest cell, true nucleus absent, lack a nuclear membrane, mitochondria, plastid and don’t divide by mitosis, during cell division cell wall extends inwards like a diaphragm)

Chlorophyta (Green algae)
Eucaryotic (The nucleus is separated from cytoplasm by a distinct nuclear membrane, it has mitotic figures and divide by mitosis). Chlorophyll-a, chlorophyll-b, βcarotene, αcarotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, violaxanthin

(Golden brown algae) Eucaryotic

Eucaryotic (Gullet present)

Cell pigments

Chlorophyll-a & blue cphycocyanin (main pigments), cphycoerythrin, β-carotene, myxoxanthin and xanthophylls

Stored food

Myxophycean starch, cyanophycin (a proteinaceous material)

Starch, fats and oils

Chlorophyll-a, chlorophyll-c, βcarotene, ε-carotene, fucoxanthin or diatomin (brown), neofucoxanthin, diatoxanthin and diadinoxanthin Fats, lucosin

Chlorophyll-a, chlorophyll-b, βcarotene and xanthophylls

Nature of Hemicellulose, pectin and mucopeptide cell wall

Cellulose, pectin and rarely hemicellulose

Lacking No. of flagella & their insertion

2 or 4, equal, anterior, whiplash Isogamy to Oogamy Sitosterol, fucosterol, ergo sterol, and chondullosterol

Cell wall in two halves, outer layer of hydrated silica and inner layer composed of pectic substances. The cell thus present in two altogether different views, girdle or side and valve or top view Absent or 1, anterior (only in male gamete of some), tinsel Isogamous, anisogamous and Oogamous Fucosterol

Paramylum (large lipid globules outside the chloroplast), fats Absent, periplastic

1, rarely 2 or 3, anterior, tinsel



Rarely sexual (isogamous) _


Absent (responsible for absence of sexual reproduction)

*Produce diatomaceous earth in seabed.


General characteristics of the division Cyanophyta (Blue-Green Algae) Characteristics of all algae: The algae are chlorophyll-bearing organisms with thallus like plant body. Thallus shows little differentiation of true tissues. Even the complex thalli lack vascular tissue and epidermis with stromata. It shows no differentiation into true root, stem and epidermis. For this reason the plant body of the algae is called a thallus. a. The blue green algae are predominantly freshwater, few species are marine. Often some of the planktonic (free-floating) fresh-water forms form dense bloom in ponds and lakes in summer and attract attention. b. Each plant is composed of either of individual cells surrounded by gelatinous materials, which is made of pectic substances which they secrete and called sheath or of chains of cells (trichomes) encased in most species in more or less cylindrical sheaths. The trichome and its sheath comprise filament, which in several families becomes branched. c. With light microscope the cell contents (protoplast) appear to be divided into two regions a centrally located clear area surrounded by a denser portion. The former is called centroplasm and latter is called chromoplasm. The regions are not separated from each other by any membrane or other structure. d. The chromoplasm contains a considerable amount of imbibed water and sticks to the wall. The osmotic pressure of the cell is low. This feature along with absence of vacuoles account for the great resistance of blue-green algae to dessication and of cyanophyte cell to plasmolysis. Chromoplasm contains a number of non-living inclusions in the form of small, spherical or irregularly shaped granules. They are reserved food (Myxophycean, starch and protein cyanophycin), oil droplets, lipids, pigments and pseudovacules. The membrane bound organelles such as the vacuoles, plastids, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and the dictyosomes are absent. e. In some planktonic species such as Anabaena and Polycystis the chromoplasm contains clusters of gas or pseudovacules, which appear black in transmitted light and red in reflected light. The gas-filled pseudovacuoles make the algal thallus buoyant and thus rise to the surface of water. These pseudo-vacules also serve as a screen against intense light. They collapsed at high light intensities. Therefore, they account for diurnal variations in depth distribution of blue-green algae. f. Blue-green algae are obligate photoautotrophs. g. Filamentous blue-green algae (e.g. Nostoc, Anabaena) produce enlarged, thick-walled, pale yellowish, specialized cells in addition to the vegetative cells. These large empty looking specialized cells are called heterocysts. Some algologists, opined that they serve to separate the trichomes into sections called the hormogonia or hormogones. The trichomes dissociates into several small fragments or hormogonia with death of intervening cells in the filaments or weakening of some cells. h. Certain cells in several families develop thick walls enlarges in size and becomes akinetes (reproductive bodies) or heterocysts. The akinetes have walls of equal thickness throughout and the heterocysts have nodular thickenings inside the walls adjacent to the attached vegetative cells. The akinetes are spore-like structure and highly modified resting cells, which are developed singly or in succession next to heterocysts. i. In the genus Oscillatoria, in few species the apical cell may be swollen into a cap-like structure and called capitate or may be tipped with a thickened membrane, the calyptra. The mucilage filled dead cells from where the breaking of trichomes takes place is called necridium/necridia. j. In Chamaesiphonaceae, the cells divide internally into endospores (undifferentiated reproductive cells). In Chamaesiphon the cell wall rupture at the distal end of the vegetative cell. The spores (called exospore) are successively pinched off at the exposed 3

end of the extruded protoplast. Some non-filamentous blue-green algae such as microcystis the cell contents divide repeatedly without any cell enlargements. The successive divisions follow closely one upon another. These are called nanocytes. Pseudohormogonia, hormocysts or hormospores are modified hormogone, multicellular spore like structure at the tip of the trichromes or shortside branch (of Westiella lanosa) which become invested by thick, lamellated, pigmented sheath. They function as perennating bodies. k. Reproduction: vegetative reproduction by binary fission (primitive type of mitosis), fragmentation and formation of hormogonia. Asexual reproduction by formation of asexual spores like akinetes, endospores and nannocytes. N.B. Blue-green algae are also called Cyanobacteria by some Phycologists because of many resemblances to bacteria e.g. prokaryotic cell structure, reproduce mainly asexually 9fission). However, blue-green algae possess chlorophyll, which bacteria lacks.

Characteristics of individual genus of the division Cyanophyta: 1. Division- Cyanophyta Class- Cyanophyceae Order- Nostocals Tribe- Hormogoneae Family- Nostocaceae Genus- Nostoc a. A blue-green algae, colonial, gelatinous thallus comprised of several intertwined and contorted monoliform filaments having heterocyst or big cells in midway of each filament. Each cell has a pigmented portion called chromoplasm with a central, colourless region called centroplasm. b. Each filament is provided with gelatinous sheath. Nostoc:

Fig 1a. Nostoc Colony

Fig 1b. Nostoc Filaments


Fig 1c. Nostoc bloom at the edge of the lake 2. Anabaena: Class- Cyanophyceae Order- Nostocals Tribe- Hormogoneae Family- Nostocaceae Genus- Anabaena a. Filaments are small, single like Nostoc but never colonial. b. Filaments having heterocyst in midway of each trichome but each trichome is without outer sheath not in a common gelatinous mass. c. Primitive type of blue-green algae.

Fig. 2b. Anabaena Filament Fig. 2a. Anabaena Colony


Fig 2c. Anabaena bloom-1

3. Gloeotrichia: Class- Cyanophyceae Fig 2d. Anabaena bloom-2 Order- Rivularicales (or, Rivulariales) Tribe- Hormogoneae Family-Rivulariaceae Genus- Gloeotrichia a. A blue-green algae, colonical form, soft, spherical or eclisoidal to an irregular lobed gelatinous firmed mass. b. The cells are broad at the base but gradually taper in the upper part. c. The lower mass cell of trichome is modified into heterocysts with spore directed towards the trichome base.

Fig 3a. Gloeotrichia filament

Fig 3b. Gloeotrichia Colony


Fig 3c. Gloeotrichia bloom 4. Oscillatoria: Class- Cyanophyceae Order- Oscillatoriales Tribe- Hormogoneae Family-Oscillatoriaceae Genus- Oscillatoria 1. It is a filamentous blue-green algae containing necridia. 2. Small forms of filaments are called hormogonia (only method of reproduction). 3. Thallus consists of trachoma, which is free living, smooth, sometimes constricted at the crosswalls, straight and rigid. 4. Filaments long, with more than 20 cells, commonly without sharp-pointed ends, unbranched and not surrounded by wall like sheath, loosely aggregated not in clusters and may show movements.

Fig. 4a. Oscillatoria filament

Fig 4b. Oscillatoria filament


Fig. 4a & 4b. Oscillatoria filament at 20 & 40 microns

5. Microcystis: (or, Anacystis)

Class- Cyanophyceae Order- Chroococcales Tribe- Coccogoneae Family- Chroococcaceae Genus- Microcystis A blue-green algae. Unicellular, cells variable in shape, often colonial

Fig. 5a. Microcystis colony

Fig. 5b. Microcystis bloom-1


Fig. 5c. Microcystis bloom-3

Fig. 5d. Microcystis bloom-4

5e. Microcystis bloom - bird eye view

Filamentous blue green algae are grown in wide variety of habitat They are common in freshwater ponds, pools, ditches, damp soils, floating channels, rice fields, sewers etc. They grow in large colonies of closely packed trichomes embedded in a firm matrix of gelatinous materials and thus formed a mucilaginous lump or thallus which occurs floating or attached.


Some highlights of the Division Chlorophyta (Green-algae) a. The pigment containing bodies in chlorophyceae are called chloroplast, but in all other algal divisions except Euglenophyta, they are referred to as chromatophores. The plastid which contains both chlorophyll a and b are usually termed chloroplasts and where plastids which contain chlorophyll a but not chlorophyll b and have carotenoids in excess over chlorophyll are known as chromatophores. b. Embeded in chloroplasts are rounded, proteinaceous bodies are one or more in number, the pyrenoids. The pyrenoids are intimately associated with the elaboration of starch, which is the principle storage product. c. The cytoplasm contains vacuoles. Some of these may be contractile (in simple unicellular form as in chlamydomonus, chlorella). d. Certain motile, unicellular green-algae (e.g. chlamydomonus) posses a small bright reddish or brownish red spot or streak like the shape of eye. It is called stigma or eye-spot. This is a photoreceptive organ. e. The presence of membrane bound chloroplasts, a sap cavity, a definite nucleus in the cell, occurance of sexual reproduction, production of motile reproductive bodies generally furnished with two to four flagella (flagella are of equal length and whiplash type and inserted in the anterior end) and production of starch as reserve food are the chief characteristics, which distinguish the chlorophyceae from cyanophyceae. Characteristics of individual genus of the division Chlorophyta 6. Chlorella: (non-motile unicellular thallus) Class- Clorophyceae Order- Clorococcales Family- Oocystaceae Genus- Chlorella (a). Occurs in freshwater ponds , ditches and in moist soil. (b). Cells are some what round, isolated or tightly grouped in a small colony, lacks flagella. (c). Cell wall smooth and evenly thick throughout. (d). Cell with one cup or bell-shaped Fig. 6a. Chlorella chloroplast, filling 2/3rd of the space in cell. It lies in cytoplasm just internal to the cell wall and thus parietal in position (such non-motile unicellular forms are called coccoid chlorophyta).

Fig 6b. Chlorella colony

Fig. 6c 10

7. Chlamydomonas: (motile unicellular thallus) Division - Chlorophyta ClassClorophyceae Order- Volvocales Family- Chlamydomonadaceae (or Chlamydomonadinae) Genus- Chlamydomonas (a). This is found in standing water. (b). Microscopic, unicellular green algae. (c). Spherical, oval or pear in shape. Anterior end pointed and bear two flagella. (d). It has single, massive cup-shaped chloroplast, which almost fills the body of the cell at its blunt posterior end and parietal in position. (e). Contents of the cell are close to cell wall as chloroplast occupies 2/3rd of the space in cell.

Fig. 7a & 7b

8. Volvox: (motile colonial thallus) Class- Clorophyceae Order- Volvocales Family- Volvocaceae Genus- Volvox (a). It occurs as minute, green balls just the size of a small pin-head (about ½ mm in diameter) in freshwater ponds and pools, very common during rainy season and one of Fig. 8a the many organisms which can help to colour the water of the pond green. (b). Unicellular, colonial green algae. Round colony, more than 500 (500-60000) cells per colony, marginal cells pyriform, and center cell round in shape. Cell separated from one another by space. (c). Several flagella are coming outside the gelatinous mass. (d).Volvox has thus carried the Chlamydomonas cell into highly complex colony in which the Chlamydomonas types of cells are arranged in the form of a hollow sphere.


Fig. 8b to 8d

9. Pandorina: (motile colonial thallus) Class- Clorophyceae Order- Volvocales Family- Volvocaceae Genus- Pandorina (a). It is found in freshwater ponds, pools and lakes. (b). The Coenobia are oblong or sub-spherical. (c).The cells in the in the Coenobium are closely packed and radially arranged. (d). Usually there are 16 cells in the coenobium sometimes 32 and rarely 8. (e). Cells are biflagellate and nucleus is centrally located. (f). The chloroplast is cup-shaped and has a pyrenoid (plastid green). (g). Colony rounded, more than one cell thick (Common for Volvox and Eudorina too).

Fig. 9. Pandorina

Fig. 10. Eudorina


10. Eudorina: (motile colonial thallus) Class- Clorophyceae Order- Volvocales Family- Volvocaceae Genus- Eudorina (a). It is found in freshwater ponds, pools and lakes during the rainy season. (b). The Coenobia are ellipsoidal or spherical and larger than Pandorina. (c). The cells in the in the Coenobium are not crowed, separated from one another by space and radially arranged. (d). Usually there are 32 globose cells in the coenobium sometimes 64 or even 16. (e). Cells are biflagellate and nucleus is centrally located. (f). The chloroplast is cup-shaped and has one or more pyrenoid (plastid green). (g). Colony rounded, more than one cell thick. Non-motile colonial thallus: 11. Pediastrum, Hydrodictyon- they are free floating colonies.

Fig. 10. Pedia

Fig. 11. Pediastrum Multicellular filamentous thallus:

Fig. 12a. Spirogyra

12. Spirogyra: ClassClorophyceae OrderZygnemales (or, Zygnematales) FamilyZygnemaceae Sub-family- Spirogyroideae GenusSpirogyra (a). It is one of the commonest green algae found in green Fig. 12b floating masses of still water of freshwater ponds, pools, ditches and lakes and slow flowing streams during spring. Because of slippery feel of threads, spirogyra is often called the pond scum or water-silk. (b). Cells attached end to end (with distinct conjugation tube) in a silky thread like unbranched filaments forming scum or mat. (c). Each cell linearly elongated with one or more ribbon shaped spiral, band like chloroplasts. (d). Cell walls consist of two layers. 13

(e). Filament is green coloured.

13. Ulothrix: (Ulo-shaggy; thrix-hair) ClassClorophyceae OrderUlotrichales FamilyUlotrichaceae (or Ulotrichasceae) GenusUlothrix

Fig 13. Ulothrix

(a). It is one of the common freshwater green algae found in rather cold, flowing water. Usually it is found attached to the substratum such as rocks or stones or other solid objects. (b). As in spirogyra the simple filament of ulothrix consists of similar cells but it is attached to the substratum at one end by a rhizoidal cell specifically modified for this purpose. (c). Multicellular long filaments, unbranched algae. (d). Cells shorter than wide (brick-shaped) or dimensions equal. (e). Single girdle, ring or collar shaped chloroplast as an accurate marginal band. 14. Oedogonium: (Oedo- swelling; gonium- vessel) ClassClorophyceae OrderOedogoniales FamilyOedogoniaceae GenusOedogonium (a). It is one of the common submerged freshwater green algae often found on leaves, petioles, stems of aquatic plants in ponds, tanks, lakes and quite streams. The mature filaments are free floating but younger ones are attached. It is less common in the running water. (b). Filamentous unbranched algae, cells linearly elongated with reticulated (irregular net) chloroplast. (c). Some cells with walls having transverse wrinkles near one end, Fig. 14. Oedogonium these are called cap cell, which is used for cell division. (d). Rounded cell is female gametangium called oogonium and flat, short, disc-like filament segment below the oogonium are male gametangia (called antheridia) are present in the filament. (e). Some times very special small stalk-like arranged filaments below the oogoniums are produced which act as male gametangia and called dwarf male. 15. Zygnema: ClassClorophyceae OrderZygnemales (or, Zygnematales) FamilyZygnemaceae (or, Zygnemataceae) Sub-family- Zygnemoideae GenusZygnema (a). It is a common grey-algae. (b). Simple fine unbranched thread or filament consisting of cylindrical cells. (c). Cells are longer than wide. (d). Each cell has a pair of very characteristic stellar (like star) chloroplasts.

Fig. 15. Zygnema 14

16. Closterium: (enclosed space) ClassClorophyceae OrderZygnemales (or, Zygnematales) FamilyDesmidiaceae GenusClosterium (a). Microscopic, unicellular, bow- or crescent-shaped. (b). Cloroplast many and star shaped. (c). Highly perforated cell wall composed of two parts. (d). The curved cells have attenuated apices with a vacuole in each apex. (e). Unpigmented area across center of cell. Fig. 16. Closterium Others

Fig. 17. Halotheca

Fig. 18. Micrasterias

Fig. 19. Ulva

General characteristics of the division Bacillariophyta (Diatoms) 1. unicellular algae. 2. Occur, usually as colonial forms, in both fresh and salt water and also on damp soil. They form a large proportion of the bottom flora of lakes and ponds. 3. The cells display a great diversity of shape; this is based either bilaterally symmetrical or on a centric type. 4. Cell walls, with outer layers silicified while the inner layers are composed of pectic substances, are very characteristic. The wall is formed of two essentially similar halves or valves, one of which placed over the other as a cover like the lid of a box. The cells thus present two altogether different views, according to the position in which they are observed, whether from the girdle or valve side. 5. Cell wall permanently rigid (never showing evidence of collapse) and with regular pattern of fine markings (striations etc.). 6. Plastid (brownish-yellow) and pyrenoid are often present. The pigments are chlorophyll a, c; yellow phycoxanthin and numerous carotenoids, which give the diatoms their goldenbrown colour. 7. Flagella absent. 15

8. The cell has always a central nucleus. 9. The cells in the colonial form are enclosed in a common mucilaginous envelope. 10. Pennate diatoms: Bilaterally symmetrical, not circular, the striations are arranged in a pinnate manner. They appear in two regular rows or series, one on either side of the axial strip. Naviculla, Pinnularia are freshwater pennate diatoms. Naviculla is boat shaped in valve view (top view) and rectangular in girdle view (side view). It has elongate valve which may be boat or needle shaped. 11. Centric diatoms: The striations are arranged radially. They are radially symmetrical. Valves are circular. They are marine diatoms.

Fig. 20a & b. Diatoms

Fig. 20d. Pinnate Diatom - Pinnularia

Fig 20c. Centric Diatom

Fig. 20e. Pinnate Diatom - Naviculla

Fig. 20f. Naviculla - Valve View 16

Fig. 20g. Satellite view: Toxic algal Bloom off the Coast of Norway (Red coloured are Diatom)


Division –Euglenophyta Division – Euglenophyta ClassEuglenineae OrderEuglenales Family- Euglenaceae Genus- Euglena 1. Microscopic, unicellular. 2. Cell elongate, blunt anterior and posteriorly. 3. Flagellum arises at the anterior end from a gullet-like depression (tube going from mouth to stomach). 4. The pure green chromatophores (chloroplasts), a number of which are present in the cell, form a starch-like substance called paramylon. 5. The green scum or “water-bloom” frequently seen in village ponds may consist of Euglena. Euglena:

Fig. 21b. Euglena 10µm Fig. 21a. Euglena

Fig. 21c. Euglena


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