1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Algae/Habitat

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Most algae, particularly Phaeophyceae and Rhodophyceae, spend the whole of the life-cycle immersed in water. In the Habitat. case of the freshwater algae, however, belonging to the Chlorophyceae and Cyanophyceae, although they required to be immersed during the vegetative period, the reproductive cells are often capable of resisting a considerable degree of desiccation, and in this condition are dispersed through great distances by various agencies. Again, as is well know, many species of marine algae growing in the region between the limits of high and low water are so constituted that they are exposed to the air twice a day without injury. The occurrence of characteristic algae at different levels constituting the zones to which reference has already been made, is probably in part an expression of the fact that different species vary in the capacity to resist desiccation from exposure. Thus Laminaria digitata, which characterizes the lowest zone, is only occasionally exposed at all, and then only for short periods of time. On the other hand, Pelvetia canaliculata, which marks the upper belt, is exposed for longer periods, and during neap tides may not be reached by the water for many days. Algae of more delicate texture than either Fucaceae or Laminariaceae also occur in the region exposed by the ebb of the tide, but these secure their exemption from desiccation either by retaining water in meshes by capillary attraction, as in the case of Pilayella, or by growing among the tangles of the larger Fucaceae, as in the case of Polysiphonia fastigiata, or by growing in dense masses on rocks, as in the case of Laurencia pinnatifida. Such a species as Delesseria sanguinea or Callophyllis laciniata would on the contrary run great risk by exposure for even a short period. A few algae approach the ordinary terrestrial plants in their capacity to live in a sub-aerial habitat subject only to such occasional supplies of water as is afforded by the rainfall. Of this nature are some of the species of Vaucheria. A very few species, like Chroolepus, which grows on rock surfaces, are comparable with the land plants which have been termed xerophilous.