Marine Biology

, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 435–444 | Cite as

Flow, flapping, and photosynthesis ofNereocystis leutkeana: a functional comparison of undulate and flat blade morphologies

  • M. A. R. Koehl
  • R. S. Alberte


A number of species of macroalagae possess a flat, strap-like blade morphology in habitats exposed to rapidly-moving water whereas those at protected sites have a wider, undulate blade shape. We have explored the functional consequences of flat, narrow vs. wide, undulate blade morphologies in the giant bull kelpNereocystis luetkeana. Our study focused on the behavior of blades in ambient water currents and the consequences of that behavior to breakage and to photosynthesis. In flowing water, the narrow, flat blades flap with lower amplitude and collapse together into a more streamlined bundle than do wide, undulate blades, and hence experience lower drag per blade area at a given flow velocity. If the algae at current-swept sites had ruffled blades, drag forces would sometimes be sufficient to break the stipes. However, flat blades in a streamlined bundle experience more self-shading than do undulate blades, which remain spread out in water currents. Thus, there is a morphological trade-off between reducing drag and reducing self-shading. Photosynthetic14C-HCO3 uptake rates decrease in slow flow when the boundary layer along the blade surface across which diffusion takes place is relatively thick. However, blade flapping, which stirs water near the blade surface, enhances carbon uptake rates in slow water currents for both the undulate and the flat morphologies.


Photosynthesis Uptake Rate Drag Force Water Current Slow Flow 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. A. R. Koehl
    • 1
  • R. S. Alberte
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell BiologyThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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