Ulvophyceae contains marine organisms that take a variety of shapes that may consist of a few cells, long filaments, thin sheets of cells, or coenocytic cells. Most approach being radially symmetrical. They have an alternation of generations and unlike in the other classes, meiosis occurs in the spores rather than the zygotes. When present, there can be two or more apical flagella. During mitosis, the nuclear envelope and the mitotic spindle persist, as they do in the Charophyceae.
The class Ulvophyceae includes sea lettuce, or Ulva, bright green, leaflike algae that grows in shallow waters on rocks and piers. Ventricaria is an egg-shaped, coenocytic alga, familiar in warm seas. Some organisms of Ulvophyceae produce toxins that discourage predation. The chloroplasts of some others become symbionts after they are retained in the bodies of sea slugs that eat the algae. They continue to perform photosynthesis, providing the slug with needed oxygen.
See also seaweed.
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