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REPRODUCTION IN ALGAE A. Asexual Reproduction For aquatic organisms such as algae, dispersal and desiccation stresses are at a minimum.

The major problem faced by algae is the transfer of gametes. Since the stable environment reduces the requirements for variability and since gamete transfer could pose a difficulty, the algae rely heavily on asexual reproduction. This, therefore, provides a means of increasing the number of individuals while restricting the genetic variability. In fact, many algae never reproduce sexually. Two methods of asexual reproduction utilized by algae will be examined. These are: Daughter colony formation Sporulation i) Daughter Colony Formation A limited number of colonial algae produce miniature replicates of the colonies. These are termed daughter colonies. These may be produced inside the hollow, spherical colonies or inside the actual cells of the parent colony. Eventually, the parent colony will rupture and release the new daughters. Examine the prepared slide of Volvox sp. (slide #73) and note the daughter colonies. Also, refer to Figure 13. Volvox sp. consists of many Chlamydomonas-like cells bound in a common spherical matrix. Each cell in the sphere has two flagella extending outward from the surface of the colony. Synchronized beating of the flagella spin the colony through water like a globe on its axis. Observe a demonstration of a live culture of Volvox sp. and note the characteristic movement of the colonies.

Figure 13: Volvox sp.

ii) Sporulation This is the most common form of asexual reproduction in the algae. Sporulation refers to the process in which any cell of an organism produces one or more reproductive cells inside its cell walls. The original cell is termed a sporangium and the new cells are termed spores. Spores are often produced in large numbers for the rapid increase in population size. Examine the prepared slide of Ulothrix sp. (Slide #28) and locate developing zoospores (motile spores) located within zoosporangia. These zoospores swim away from the parent, settle down and develop directly into new filaments (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Sporulation in Ulotrix sp. What is the advantage of asexual reproduction to the algae?

What is the main disadvantage?

What would be the disadvantage of this type of reproduction in a terrestrial environment?

B. Sexual Reproduction Although most algae reproduce asexually, the proper environmental stimulus may initiate sexual reproduction. The algae have evolved many variations in sexual reproduction such as different types of gametes, different means of gamete transfer, and different locations of fertilization. The process of gamete formation is called gametogenesis. The relative form of the two fusing gametes defines two categories of sexual reproduction -- isogamy and heterogamy. Isogamy Isogamy is the form of sexual reproduction in which the gametes produced are identical in shape, size and motility. There is no structural distinction between "male" and "female" gametes (Figure 15). Pairs of isogametes align themselves with their flagellar poles touching and after several seconds, the motile gametes fuse to form a single, non-motile, diploid zygote.

Figure 15: Life cycle of Chlamydomonas sp. Isogametes, less commonly, may be non-motile structures. A specific example exhibiting non-motile isogametes is the reproductive process known as conjugation, which occurs in the filamentous green alga, Spirogyra sp. Examine Slide #85 of conjugating Spirogyra sp.; identify the four stages of the process as outlined in Figure 16.

Figure 16: Isogamy in Spirogyra sp. A. Resting filaments of alga cells. B. Formation of conjugation tubes between two adjacent filaments. C. Cytoplasmic contents of each cell form a compact mass, representing an isogamete. The isogametes from one filament migrate through the conjugation tubes into the adjacent filament.

The two isogametes unite to form a zygote. Each zygote eventually undergoes meiosis to form four haploid cells. One haploid cell will form a new filament by mitosis, the other three degenerate.

Heterogamy In heterogamy, two different types of gametes are produced. The male gamete, the sperm cell, is typically very small, highly motile and is produced in very large numbers. The female gamete, the egg cell, is much larger and non-motile. Fewer female gametes are produced but each is usually afforded some protection. Heterogametes are also produced by higher plants and animals. Oedogonium sp. is a green alga that produces heterogametes. Figure 17 illustrates the life cycle of this alga. Also examine Slide #90 and locate a mature egg cell and the small male filaments, which are the site of sperm production. In the species you are examining, the egg cells and male filaments are usually adjacent to one another on the same algal strand.

Figure 17: Heterogamy in Oedogonium sp.