In news- A group of botanists from Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (CUPB) have discovered an algal species from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, after nearly four decades.
- The bright green algae measuring as small as 20 to 40 mm, resembling an umbrella or a mushroom, has grooves on its cap measuring 15 to 20 mm in diameter.
- It is named after the imaginary sea mermaid, Acetabularia jalakanyaka and is very primitive and is a single-cell organism.
- Though it was originally spotted in 2019 at the island, the CUPB team took about two years to identify and fully understand the morphology of this algae.
- Its nucleus forms a rhizoid structure, which facilitates the algae to attach itself to shallow rocks.
- Acetabularia is highly regenerative in nature such that even if one chops off the top portion, the algae can regrow.
- As it is primarily a marine algae, the projected sea level rise due to global warming is not as much of a direct threat to its existence.
- Algae are members of a group of predominantly aquatic photosynthetic organisms of the kingdom Protista.
- Algae have many types of life cycles, and they range in size from microscopic Micromonas species to giant kelps that reach 60 metres (200 feet) in length.
- The study of algae is called phycology.
- They are defined as eukaryotic (nucleus-bearing) organisms that photosynthesize but lack the specialized multicellular reproductive structures of plants.
- Beginning in the 1830s, algae were classified into major groups based on colour—e.g., red, brown, and green.
- They are oxygen producers, food base for almost all aquatic life, economically important as a source of crude oil and as sources of food and a number of pharmaceutical and industrial products for humans.
- They are used in ice creams to limit ice crystal formation (producing a smooth texture), in syrups as emulsifiers and thickeners, and in candy bars and salad dressings as fillers.
- Agars, extracted primarily from species of red algae, are used in instant pie fillings, canned meats or fish, bakery icings and for clarifying beer and wine.
- Agar is also used extensively in laboratory research as a substrate for growing bacteria, fungi, and algae in pure cultures and tissue culture.
- When nutrients are abundant, as in some polluted waters, algal cell numbers can become great enough to produce obvious patches of algae called “blooms” or “red tides,” which can deplete the oxygen content in the water and poison aquatic animals.
- Several algae produce toxins lethal to fish.
- They can cause human diseases by directly attacking human tissues, although the frequency is rare.