Systematics of the Green Algae: A Brief Introduction to the Current Status

  • Thomas FriedlEmail author
  • Nataliya Rybalka
Part of the Progress in Botany book series (BOTANY, volume 73)


Green algae are a monophyletic lineage of Archaeplastida, a supergroup of photosynthetic eukaryotes exclusively originated from primary endosymbiosis. The green algae are divided into two clades, the Chlorophyta and Streptophyta. The Chlorophyta comprises the vast majority of green algae, with three major lineages (Trebouxiophyceae, Ulvophyceae, and Chlorophyceae) forming the “crown group” of Chlorophyta and, as their early offspring, an assemblage of various monophyletic lineages of unicellular prasinophyte algae. Chloroplast phylogenomics and multigene phylogenetic analyses not only largely confirmed previous assumptions based on single gene (18S or rbcL) analyses, but also revealed novel robust groupings. While a bifurcation of the Chlorophyceae and a clear distinction of four major lineages within the Ulvophyceae have been supported, the internal phylogenetic structure and circumscription of Trebouxiophyceae still remain ambiguous. The Streptophyta comprises relatively few algal lineages and embryophytes. The embryophyte land plants are a sister group of streptophyte green algae (Zygnematophyceae or a lineage comprising Zygnematophyceae and Coleochaetophyceae), but transitions of the green algae to the land have taken place several times, even outside the Streptophyta. Progress in green algal systematics at the species level revealed ITS2 rDNA as an appropriate candidate for DNA barcoding and species distinction. Approaches to integrate sequence analyses of several genes with morphology are now state of the art for species delimitations. An improved taxon sampling with consideration of traditional gathered expert knowledge combined with multigene phylogenetic analyses, and improved phylogeny inference methods will be required to clarify areas of ambiguity in the green algal phylogenies. A revisit of morphology is essential to establish synapomorphies for the novel clades in molecular groupings.


Green Alga Chloroplast Genome Taxon Sampling Biological Soil Crust Phylogenetic Structure 
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 Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Experimental Phycology and Culture Collection of Algae (SAG)Georg August University GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Plant Cell Physiology and Biotechnology, Botanical InstituteChristian Albrechts University of KielKielGermany

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