1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Algae/Cyanophyceae

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I. Cyanophyceae.—This group derives its name from the circumstance that the cells contain in addition to the green colouring matter, chlorophyll, a blue-green colouring matter to which the termSubdivisions. phycocyanin has been applied. To the eye, however, members of this group present a greater variety of colour than those of any other—yellow, brown, olive, red, purple, violet and variations of all these being known. They undoubtedly represent the lowest grade of algal life, and their distribution rivals that of the Green Algae. They occur in the sea, in fresh water, on moist earth, on damp rocks and on the bark of trees. Certain species are regularly found in the intercellular spaces of higher plants; such are species of Nostoc in the thallus of Anthoceros, the leaves of Azolla and the roots of Cycads. Many of them enter into the structure of the lichen-thallus, as the so-called gonidia. It is remarkable that species belonging to the Oscillatoriaceae are known to flourish in hot springs, the temperature of which rises as high as 85°C.

The thallus may be unicellular or multicellular. When unicellular, it may consist of isolated cells, but more commonly the cells are held together in a common jelly (Chroococcaceae) derived from the outer layers of the cell-wall. The multicellular species consist of filaments, branched or unbranched, which arise by the repeated divisions of the cells in parallel planes, no formation of mucilage occurring in the dividing walls. Such filaments may not give rise to mucilage on the lateral lateral surface either, in which case they are said to be free; when mucilage does occur on the lateral wall, it appears as the sheath surrounding either the single filament, or a sheaf of filaments of common origin. The mucilage may also form an embedding substance similar to that of Chroococcaceae, in which the filaments lie parallel or radiate from a common centre (Rivulariaceae). The cells of the filament may be all alike, and growth may occur equally in all parts (Oscillatoriaceae); or certain cells (heterocysts) may become marked off by their larger size and the transparency of their contents; in which case growth may still be distributed equally throughout (Nostoc), or the filament may be attached where the heterocyst arises, and grow out at the opposite extremity into a fine hair (Rivulariaceae). An African form (Camptothrix), devoid of heterocysts and hair-like at both extremities, has recently been described. Branching has been described as “false” and “true.” The former arises when a filament in a sheath, either in consequence of growth in length beyond the capacity of the sheath to accommodate it,

EB1911 Algae - Fig.1 Cyanophyceae.png

Fig. 1.—Cyanophyceae, variously magnified. 
A. Gloeocapsa sp., colony in mucilage. 
D. Nostoc sp., young colony-filament
 with heterocysts.
B. Phormidium sp., single filament
 with hormogonium.
E. Scytanema sp., false branching.
 F. Rivularia sp.
C. Micro coleus sp., several filaments
 in common sheath.
G. Stigonema sp., with hormogonium
 and true branching.
H. Spirulina sp.
(From Engler and Prantl, Pflanzenfamilien, by permission of Wilhelm Engelmann.)

or because of the decay of a cell, becomes interrupted by breaking, and the free ends slip past one another. “True” branching arises only by the longitudinal division of a cell of a filament and the lateral outgrowth of one of the cells resulting from the division (Sirosiphonaceae).

The nature of the contents of the cells of Cyanophyceae has given rise to considerable controversy. The cells are for the most part exceedingly minute, and are not easy to free from their colouring matters, so that investigation has been attended with great difficulty. Occupying as these algae do perhaps the lowest grade of plant life, it is a matter of interest to ascertain whether a nucleus or chromatophore is differentiated in their cells, or whether the functions and properties of these bodies are diffused through the whole protoplast. It is certain that the centre of the cell, which is usually non-vacuolated, is occupied by protoplasm of different properties from the peripheral region; and A. Fischer has further established the fact that the peripheral mass, which is a hollow sphere in spherical cells, and either a hollow cylinder or barrel-shaped body in filamentous forms, must be regarded as the single chromatophore of the Cyanophyceous cell. But what precisely is the nature of the central mass is still uncertain. Some investigators, such as R. Hegler, F. G. Kohl and E. W. Olive, claim that this body is a true nucleus comparable with that of the higher plants. It is said to undergo division by a mitosis essentially of the same character, with the formation of a spindle and the differentiation of chromosomes. It is further stated by Olive that the chromosomes undergo longitudinal fission, and that for the same species the same number of chromosomes appear at each division. H. Wager speaks with greater reserve, acknowledging, however, the central body to be a nucleus of a rudimentary type, but devoid of nuclear membrane and nucleolus. He thinks it may possibly originate in the vacuolization of the central region, and the accumulation of chromatin granules therein. He finds no spindle fibres or true chromosomes, and considers the division direct, not indirect. With reference to the existence of a chromatophore, he with others finds the colouring matter localized in granules in the peripheral region, but does not consider these individually or in the aggregate as chromatophores. Among other contents of the cell, fatty substances and tannin are known. A curious adaptation seems to occur in certain floating forms, in the presence of a gas-vacuole, which may be made to vary its volume with varying pressure. There is evidence that the dividing wall of filamentous forms is deeply pitted, as is found to be the case in red algae. Reproduction is chiefly effected by the vegetative method. Asexual reproductive cells are not infrequent, but sexual reproduction even in its initial stages is unknown. Nor is motility by means of cilia known in the group. In the unicellular forms, cell-division involves multiplication of the plant. In all the multicellular plants of this group which have been adequately investigated, vegetative multiplication by means of what are known as hormogonia has been found to occur. These are short segments of filaments consisting of a few cells which disengage themselves from the ambient jelly, if it be present, in virtue of a peculiar creeping movement which they possess at this stage. After a time they come to rest and give rise to new colonies. True reproduction of the asexual kind occurs, however, in the formation of sporangia, particularly in the Chamaesiphonaceae. Here the contents of certain cells break up endogenously into a great number of spores, which are distributed as a fine dust. Resting spores are also known. In these cases, certain cells of a colony of unicellular plants or of the filaments of multicellular plants enlarge greatly and thicken their wall. When unfavourable external conditions supervene and the ordinary cells become atrophied, these cells persist and reproduce the plant with the return of more favourable conditions. The Oscillatoriaceae are capable of a peculiar oscillatory movement, which has earned for them their name, and which enables them to move through considerable distances. It is not clear how the movement is effected, though it has frequently been the subject of careful investigation.

With the Cyanophyceae must be included, as their nearest allies, the Bacteriaceae see Bacteriology). Notwithstanding the absence of chlorophyll, and the consequent parasitic or saprophytic habit, Bacteriaceae agree in so many morphological features with Cyanophyceae that the affinity can hardly be doubted.

A census of the Cyanophyceae with their two main groups is given below:—

  1. Coccogoneae—2 families, 29 genera, 253 species.
  2. Hormogoneae—6 families, 59 genera, 701 species.

 (Engler and Prantl’s Pflanzenfamilien, 1900.)