The Astonishing, Delightful & Magnificent Algae

by Paul Gaylon
Inspired by “The Astonishing, Magnificent, Delightful Algae
Author: Dr. William Barry

In all probability, because of this wonderful innovation of producing oxygen, algae have enabled the animals of the world, including human beings, to occupy the otherwise hostile atmospheric environment. It is believed that algae alone, among all the photosynthesizing plants, produce enough oxygen to sustain all the animals in the world. It is also known that algae fix more carbon, i.e. make more sugar, than all the rest of the world’s plants together. (Arms, K. and P.S. Camp, 1987)

Algae also produce large quantities of carbon dioxide through respiration and decomposition. An available supply of this gas, CO2, is critical for the existence of other algae and the green plants of the world. They cannot survive without it. Therefore, algae complete the cycle by first using CO2 to make sugar and then by releasing CO2 when they oxidize sugar for energy. These sugars are made into more complex sugars, proteins, fats, hormones, and enzymes.

Algae use their multiple sugars (polysaccharides) to build containers of cellulose around themselves which we know as cell walls. They have a gelatinous sheath and can be mobile if necessary. All algae are composed of self-sufficient cells.

They make lipids (fats) from the simpler glycerol and fatty acids. An important group of lipids also contain phosphorous and are known as phospholipids. Other lipids have fatty acids in combination with carbohydrates or proteins thus erasing the distinctions between these three major food groups. Some photosynthesizing algae simply absorb nutrients from their surroundings when there is insufficient light. Thus, some species can live quite nicely in the dark (N.G. Carr & B.A. Whitton, 1982, page 4).

Cyanobacteria (AFA) have been successful for the past 3.5 billion years. They most likely have changed very little over time. They have mastered their environments, their competitions, light and temperature conditions, as well as physical and chemical changes. They have survived and thrived by learning many tricks. They have learned to produce the precise amount of enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids to keep themselves healthy. They learned which pigments to produce and use in various light situations to enable them to produce their required food. They learned to take optimum amounts of nitrogen & carbon dioxide from air & water and optimum amounts of minerals from water (p. 23).

Phaeophtya: Ptilota (red) and Codium Intricatum are especially rich in iodine. They contain 11 kinds of pigments, all amino acids, and many growth factors via coenzymes. Their composition is 15–21% complex carbohydrates and 3.7% lipids. Being 3.5 million years old, algae have adapted to air, soil, and water in every type of environment and in all temperature ranges. They can be single-celled, small cell colonies, matted strands of cells or aggregates, or wall celluloses with gelatinous sheaths. Food is stored as carbohydrate proteins (prokaryotes). Phaeophtya are able to use atmospheric nitrogen to extract CO2 from bicarbonates (HCO3).