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Chlorophyta

Introduction

Chlorophyta (klōrŏfˈətə) [key], phylum (division) of the kingdom Protista consisting of the photosynthetic organisms commonly known as green algae. The organisms are largely aquatic or marine. The various species can be unicellular, multicellular, coenocytic (having more than one nucleus in a cell), or colonial. Those that are motile have two apical or subapical flagella. A few types are terrestrial, occurring on moist soil, on the trunks of trees, on moist rocks, and even in snowbanks. Various species are highly specialized, some living exclusively on turtles, sloths, or within the gill mantles of marine mollusks.

It is generally accepted that early chlorophytes gave rise to the plants. Cells of the Chlorophyta contain organelles called chloroplasts in which photosynthesis occurs; the photosynthetic pigments chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b, and various carotenoids, are the same as those found in plants and are found in similar proportions. Chlorophytes store their food in the form of starch in plastids and, in many, the cell walls consist of cellulose. Unlike in plants, there is no differentiation into specialized tissues among members of the division, even though the body, or thallus, may consist of several different kinds of cells. There are four evolutionary lineages of green algae. Most living species are grouped in classes that are coextensive with three of these lineages.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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