In this article, we will be discussing Introduction to Algae and historical development in Algology. You may already come across the term Algae in your previous classes in school and college. The first and foremost question that comes to your mind is What is Algae? Who introduced Algae and When? What is the background of Algal’s research and developments? Now in this article, we will be revising the basics and the terminologies related to Algology. If you are not yet read the Introduction to Botany check it here.
Introduction to Algae
After the introduction of Darwin’s theory of evolution in 1859, the classification system changed gradually. And now, the phylogenetic characteristics are considered for the classification of organisms. In this system, we can see the primitive to an advanced type of hierarchy. And the Plant Kingdom, based on this classified into Cryptogamae and Phanerogamae.
The Cryptogamae consists of all those plants that do not flower at all and reproduce by spores. In contrast, Phanerogams are flower-bearing and have dedicated reproductive organs for reproduction. The Cryptogamae consists of 3 divisions, which include- Thallophyta, Bryophyta, and Pteridophyta. The Phanerogams 2 divisions include- Gymnosperms and Angiosperms.
Thallophytes are primitive, smaller, non-flowering plants in which the plant body is not differentiated into root, stem, and leaves. Their body is composed of a mass of undifferentiated cells known as the Thallus body. Thallus means ‘twig,’ which is derived from ‘Thallos,’ a Greek word. These have unicellular or multicellular structures. Thallophytes include the Algae and Fungi. Algae differ from Fungi as they have photosynthetic pigments in them.
The Cryptogamae consists of 3 divisions, which include:
The Phanerogamae has 2 divisions which include
Algae do not have a particular definition to define. However, they can be determined based on their characteristics. Algae are simple and have size variations from microscopic to macroscopic. Microalgae is an example of microscopic algae. Seaweeds like Kelp are examples of Macro-algae.
What are Algae?
Algae are the unicellular or multicellular, primitive, thalloid, prokaryotic (Cyanobacteria), and eukaryotic organisms that may have autotrophic or heterotrophic nutrition.
Algae are grouped under Thallophytes, which have a thalloid plant body. They are autotrophic, i.e., algae prepare their food using photosynthesis in which oxygen is released as a byproduct. Almost all algae are composed of the green pigment chlorophyll a. However, this pigment is masked by some other pigments present in the algae. An example of green algae is Chlamydomonas. Likewise, Red Algae Rhodophyceae, which has r-phycoerythrin, Brown Algae Phyophyceae have fucoxanthin pigment.
In this introduction to algae let’s look at the terms or the definitions of Algae given by various Biologists are as follows:
- According to Fritsch (1935), Algae are the holophytic organisms that fail to reach the higher level of differentiation characteristic of advanced plants.
- According to G. M. Smith (1995), Algae are similar to plants with an autotrophic mode of nutrition.
- According to G. W. Prescott (1969), Algae are chlorophyllous organisms that are thalloid without root, stem, or leaves.
- According to V. J. Chapman (1962), Algae are the simplest primitive organisms of the plant kingdom.
Historical Developments in Algology:
Human interest in the study of Plants can be tracked from millions of years back since plants are the primary source of food. With this interest in the study, the man started to explore the vast diversity of plant species. When it comes to the study of Algae was started about thousands of years ago. But the study of Algae developed rapidly in the last three centuries due to the rapid increase in the research labs and advancement of science. Let us look at the Historical Developments in Algology:
- In the 15th Century, the Portuguese in South Africa did the written account of Algae for the first time, but there is no clue to which species they referred.
- In the 17th Century, there was a considerable increase in scientific works, and many botanists were started to research and publish many articles and books. But Researchers did not begin the study of Algae and works on algae until the development of the Microscope. R. Roth (1798) identified the Hydrodictyon and Rivularia. A. L. De Jussiaue (1789) separated Algae from Bryophytes.
- In the 18th Century, the rise of Biologists started as there was the invention of instruments created for research works. Carolus Linneaus introduced the nomenclature and classified the plants for the first time in his Species Plantarum book. And he ranked Cryptogamia, which included the plants which reproduce by spores or the hidden reproductive organs. Linneaus, for the first time, used the term Algae and he grouped them in the Hepataceae family of Bryophytes. Turner (1802) described the reproduction in Fucus.
- Vaucher (1803) described the importance of reproductive organs in the Classification of Algae and explained the alternation of generation in algae. In 1899 Luther, based on Flagella, created the ‘Heterokontae’ group.
- In the 19th Century, there were a rapid increase and interest developed in the study of Algae. The separate branch for the study of Algae known as Algology came into existence. And it is said that there are nearly a million species of algae present in the world, and still, the research on algae is going on!
Historical Developments In Algae In India
Let us look at the Historical developments in Algae in India:
In 1839 Royle studied the Algal species found in the region of Himalayas. And then Griffith worked on Eudorina. Indian researchers started working on Algae from 1919 onwards.
- Gosh (1919-1932) worked on the Blue-Green Algae found in the Burma region.
- After that, M.O.P Iyengar, known as ‘Father of Indian Algology‘ started his work on Algae in southern parts of India and published many papers. And his students Ramanathan and Subramanian, Balakrishnan, and Desikacharya also published their articles on Algae found in India.
- M.O.P. Iyengar mainly started research on Volvocales and was guided by Frisch. And he identified Gilbertsmithia, Fritschiella, Characiosiphon, and Ecballocystopsis. He became the President of the Phycological Society in India. Several thousand species of algae he collected are presently preserved at the Herbarium at the University of Madras.
- R. N. Singh worked on the Reclamation of Usar Lands through Blue-green Algae. Also worked on the use of Blue-Green Algae in Agriculture.
- H. D. Kumar reported the Genetic Recombination in Cynophyta.
- J. N. Mishra wrote a monograph on Brown Algae in India.
- M.S.Randhawa(1932-59) recorded about 70 species of Zygnemaceae and also worked on Vaucheriaceae and Oedogoniales.
- Y.Bhardwaja started a school of Algal studies at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and he identified Scytonema malaviyaensis, Draparnaldiopsis indica, Spelaeopogon kashyapi and two species of Scytonemataceae.
In this article, we discussed the Introduction to Algae and Historical Developments in Algae. And in the next article, we will be focusing on more topics related to Algae. Stay tuned and share the content and comment below your suggestions or messages below. Your feedback matters to us more.