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Kelp in Hazards Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia Kelp In Freycinet Tasmania.jpg
Kelp in Hazards Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Phycology (from Greek φῦκος , phykos, "seaweed"; and -λογία , -logia ) is the scientific study of algae. Also known as algology, phycology is a branch of life science.


Algae are important as primary producers in aquatic ecosystems. Most algae are eukaryotic, photosynthetic organisms that live in a wet environment. They are distinguished from the higher plants by a lack of true roots, stems or leaves. They do not flower. Many species are single-celled and microscopic (including phytoplankton and other microalgae); many others are multicellular to one degree or another, some of these growing to large size (for example, seaweeds such as kelp and Sargassum ).

Phycology includes the study of prokaryotic forms known as blue-green algae or cyanobacteria. A number of microscopic algae also occur as symbionts in lichens.

Phycologists typically focus on either freshwater or ocean algae, and further within those areas, either diatoms or soft algae.

History of phycology

While both the ancient Greeks and Romans knew of algae, and the ancient Chinese [1] even cultivated certain varieties as food, the scientific study of algae began in the late 18th century with the description and naming of Fucus maximus (now Ecklonia maxima) in 1757 by Pehr Osbeck. This was followed by the descriptive work of scholars such as Dawson Turner and Carl Adolph Agardh, but it was not until later in the 19th century that efforts were made by J.V. Lamouroux and William Henry Harvey to create significant groupings within the algae. Harvey has been called "the father of modern phycology" [2] in part for his division of the algae into four major divisions based upon their pigmentation.

It was in the late 19th and early 20th century, that phycology became a recognized field of its own. Men such as Friedrich Traugott Kützing continued the descriptive work. In Japan, beginning in 1889, Kintarô Okamura not only provided detailed descriptions of Japanese coastal algae, he also provided comprehensive analysis of their distribution. [3] Although R. K. Greville published his Algae Britannicae as early as 1830, it was not until 1902 with the publication of A Catalogue of the British Marine Algae [4] by Edward Arthur Lionel Batters that the systematic correlation of records, extensive distribution mapping and the development of identification keys began in earnest. In 1899-1900, Anna Weber-Van Bosse, a Dutch Phycologist travelled on the Siboga expedition and later in 1904, published The Corallinaceae of the Siboga-expedition . [5]

As early as 1803 Jean Pierre Étienne Vaucher had published on the isogamy (sexual conjugation) in the algae, but it was in the early 20th century that reproduction and development began to be extensively studied. The 1935 and 1945 comprehensive volumes of Felix Eugen Fritsch consolidated what was then known about the morphology and reproduction of the algae. This was followed in the 1950s by the development of area checklists, led by Mary Parke with her 1931 Manx Algae and followed in 1953 by her "A preliminary check-list of British marine algae" [6] Although Lily Newton's 1931 Handbook [7] provided the first identification key for the algae of the British Isles, it was the 1960s before the development of such keys became routine. The 1980s with the new emphasis on ecology [8] saw increased study of algal communities, and the place of algae in larger plant communities, and provided an additional tool for explaining geographical variation. [9] [10]

The continent with the richest diversity of seaweeds is Australia, which has 2,000 species. [11]

Notable phycologists

See also

Related Research Articles

Coralline algae Order of algae (Corallinales)

Coralline algae are red algae in the order Corallinales. They are characterized by a thallus that is hard because of calcareous deposits contained within the cell walls. The colors of these algae are most typically pink, or some other shade of red, but some species can be purple, yellow, blue, white, or gray-green. Coralline algae play an important role in the ecology of coral reefs. Sea urchins, parrot fish, and limpets and chitons feed on coralline algae. In the temperate Mediterranean Sea, coralline algae are the main builders of a typical algal reef, the Coralligène ("coralligenous"). Many are typically encrusting and rock-like, found in marine waters all over the world. Only one species lives in freshwater. Unattached specimens may form relatively smooth compact balls to warty or fruticose thalli.

<i>Porphyra</i> Genus of seaweed

Porphyra is a genus of coldwater seaweeds that grow in cold, shallow seawater. More specifically, it belongs to red algae phylum of laver species, comprising approximately 70 species. It grows in the intertidal zone, typically between the upper intertidal zone and the splash zone in cold waters of temperate oceans. In East Asia, it is used to produce the sea vegetable products nori and gim. There are considered to be 60 to 70 species of Porphyra worldwide and seven around Britain and Ireland where it has been traditionally used to produce edible sea vegetables on the Irish Sea coast.

<i>Codium</i> Genus of algae

Codium is a genus of seaweed in the Chlorophyta of the order Bryopsidales. Paul Silva was an expert on the genus Codium taxonomy at the University of California at Berkeley. There are about 50 species worldwide.

William Eifion Jones was a Welsh marine botanist, noted for his study of marine algae.

The history of phycology is the history of the scientific study of algae. Human interest in plants as food goes back into the origins of the species and knowledge of algae can be traced back more than two thousand years. However, only in the last three hundred years has that knowledge evolved into a rapidly developing science.

<i>Laurencia</i> Genus of algae

Laurencia is a genus of red algae that grow in temperate and tropical shore areas, in littoral to sublittoral habitats, at depths up to 65 m (213 ft).

Mary Winifred Parke, FRS, was a British marine botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society (1972) specialising in phycology, the study of algae.

Anna Weber-van Bosse Dutch phycologist (1852–1942)

Anna Antoinette Weber-van Bosse was a Dutch phycologist, specializing in marine algae.

Gavino Trono Filipino biologist (born 1931)

Gavino Trono Jr., Ph.D. is a Filipino marine biologist dubbed as the "Father of Kappaphycus farming". He was conferred the rank of National Scientist of the Philippines for contributions to the study of tropical marine phycology, focusing on seaweed biodiversity. He is currently a professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute.

<i>Hypnea</i> Genus of algae

Hypnea is a genus of red algae, and a well known carrageenophyte.

Elsie Conway was a British phycologist. She served as president of the British Phycological Society from 1965 to 1967, and was one of the earliest women Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Madura S. Balakrishnan (1917–1990) was born and raised in Madras, Madras Presidency, British India. He was a well-known botanist and he served various government positions and worked for some time at the University of Pune. He was the student of phycologist Professor M.O.P. Iyengar. The standard author abbreviation M.S.Balakr. is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.

Christine Maggs British phycologist

Christine Adair Maggs is a British phycologist. Formerly Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science & Technology at Bournemouth University, she is now the Chief Scientist of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Ethel Sarel Gepp, also publishing as Ethel Sarel Barton, was a phycologist who specialized in the study of marine algae and is noted for her work reordering the genus Halimeda.

Michael D. Guiry Irish phycologist and founder of AlgaeBase

Michael Dominic Richard Guiry, is an Irish botanist, who specialises in phycology (algae). See for example the articles. He is the founder and director of the algal database, AlgaeBase.

Valerie May was an Australian phycologist, a pioneer and noted expert on toxic algae and water quality, and an interdisciplinary scientist who undertook algal ecology studies in Australia.

The British Phycological Society, founded in 1952, is a learned society based in the United Kingdom promoting the study of algae. Members interests include all aspects of the study of algae, including both natural biodiversity and applied uses. It is the largest learned phycological society in Europe. Its membership is worldwide, although predominantly within the UK.

Margaret Constance Helen Blackler (1902–1981) was a British phycologist, botanical collector and museum curator.

Alan Cribb is an Australian botanist and mycologist and an expert in marine and freshwater algae and seaweeds. He has also written on native and wild foods of Australia. The standard author abbreviation Cribb is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.

Joanna M. Jones was a phycologist, marine biologist and diver. She researched kelp forest ecology adding to the scientific knowledge on its population, reproduction, competition and growth as well as descriptions of subcanopy seaweeds found in kelp forests. She was president of the British Phycological Society from 1987 to 1988.


  1. Porterfield, William M. (1922) "References to the algae in the Chinese classics" Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 49: pp. 297300
  2. "About Phycology" Lance Armstrong Foundation
  3. Tokida, Jun and Hirose, Hiroyuki (1975) Advance of Phycology in Japan Junk, The Hague, Netherlands, page 241, ISBN   90-6193-026-X
  4. Batters, Edward Arthur Lionel (1902) A catalogue of the British Marine Algae being a list of all the species of seaweeds known to occur on the shores of the British Islands, with the localities where they are found Newman, London, OCLC   600805992, published as a supplement to Journal of Botany, British and Foreign
  5. Weber-Van Bosse, A.; Foslie, M. (1904). The Corallinaceae of the Siboga-expedition. F. J. Brill.
  6. Parke, Mary W. (1953) "A preliminary check-list of British marine algae" Archived 2011-08-26 at the Wayback Machine Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 32(2): pp. 497520; revised and corrected through the third revision of 1976
  7. Newton, Lily (1931) A Handbook of the British Seaweeds British Museum, London
  8. Walter, Heinrich and Breckle, Siegmar-Walter (1983) Ökologie der Erde: : Geo-Biosphäre: Band 1, Ökologische Grundlagen in globaler Sicht (Ecology of the Earth: the geobiosphere: Volume 1, Ecological principles in a global perspective) Fischer, Stuttgart, Germany, ISBN   3-437-20297-9; in German
  9. Stevenson, R. Jan; Bothwell, Max L. and Lowe, Rex L. (1996) Algal ecology: freshwater benthic ecosystems Academic Press, San Diego, California, page 23, ISBN   0-12-668450-2
  10. Figueiras, F. G.; Picher, G. C. and Estrada, M. (2008) "Chapter 10: Harmful Algal Bloom Dynamics in Relation to Physical Processes" page 130 In Granéli, E. and Turner, J. T. (2008) Ecology of Harmful Algae Springer, Berlin, pp. 127138, ISBN   3-540-74009-0
  11. "Marine algae". Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2014.