|—pl n , sing alga|
|unicellular or multicellular organisms formerly classified as plants, occurring in fresh or salt water or moist ground, that have chlorophyll and other pigments but lack true stems, roots, and leaves. Algae, which are now regarded as protoctists, include the seaweeds, diatoms, and spirogyra|
|[C16: from Latin, plural of alga seaweed, of uncertain origin]|
algae al·gae (āl'jē)
Any of various chiefly aquatic, eukaryotic, photosynthetic organisms, ranging in size from single-celled forms to the giant kelp.
|alga (āl'gə) Pronunciation Key
Plural algae (āl'jē)
Any of various green, red, or brown organisms that grow mostly in water, ranging in size from single cells to large spreading seaweeds. Like plants, algae manufacture their own food through photosynthesis and release large amounts of oxygen into the atmosphere. They also fix large amounts of carbon, which would otherwise exist in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Algae form a major component of marine plankton and are often visible as pond scum and blooms in tidal pools. Land species mostly live in moist soil and on tree trunks or rocks. Some species live in extreme environments, such as deserts, hot springs, and glaciers. Although they were once classified as plants, the algae are now considered to be protists, with the exception of the cyanobacteria, formerly called blue-green algae. The algae do not form a distinct phylogenetic group, but the word alga serves as a convenient catch-all term for various photosynthetic protist phyla, including the green algae, brown algae, and red algae.
Primitive organisms that contain chlorophyll but do not have structures, such as xylem and phloem, to transport fluids. Algae sometimes contain only a single cell, and nowadays they are not considered members of the plant kingdom.
Note: The most familiar algae are the greenish scum that collects in still water.
Note: Algae supply a considerable part of the world's oxygen.