What is Marine Algae?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt
Marine algae as seen through a microscope.
Marine algae as seen through a microscope.

Many people are familiar with marine algae as common seaweed. It is a multicellular organism and includes both green and brown varieties of algae, as well as red marine algae. The plant is considered the oldest organism in the plant kingdom. Some varieties of seaweed that people may be most familiar with include kelp, phytoplankton, and gulfweed.

Most marine algae consists of red algae, which has 6,000 species.
Most marine algae consists of red algae, which has 6,000 species.

Unlike the weeds found among garden plants, seaweeds do not consist of typical flowers, roots, or other plant parts. Though it contains chlorophyll, marine algae reproduces through spores. The size of seaweed can vastly vary. Some samples may be microscopic while others can be hundreds of feet or meters long, as many people with oceanic experience may attest to witnessing.

The majority of marine algae are red varieties, which make up 6,000 species of organisms. Brown algae accounts for another 2,000 species. Green varieties include 1,200 species of the seaweed.

Marine algae is more commonly known as seaweed.
Marine algae is more commonly known as seaweed.

Several countries, such as Japan, regularly use marine algae as a nutrition source. It was considered a delicacy in ancient China. Seaweeds are complete proteins, high in both carbohydrates as well as fatty acids, such as omega-3s. Red algae in particular is also considered an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Many people in Western nations recognize these benefits and actively campaigned for a more widespread use of seaweed as a sustainable protein source.

A nutrient-rich microorganism typically found in oceans and seas, seaweed has long served as a food for some populations.
A nutrient-rich microorganism typically found in oceans and seas, seaweed has long served as a food for some populations.

Seaweed extractions are another benefit humans receive from the organism. Ingredients used in cooking, such as agar, are extracted from seaweed. Carrageenans extracted from red seaweeds are a popular ingredient in vegan alternative foods, such as gelatin. Cosmetic companies sometimes employ the use of seaweed extracts, as do insecticide manufacturers.

In addition to being used as a food source, seaweed is a popular base for several medicines. People take it as a nutritional supplement for an immunity boost and treating herpes. Some manufacturers claim that seaweed can help support weight loss; hence, many consumers purchase it for this reason as well.

Marine algae has some more surprising uses as well, including employing it as a fuel, livestock feed, or as fertilizer. Some farmers note, however, that when laying hens are fed a diet including marine algae, their yolks may exhibit discoloration. Seaweed is also used as a stabilizer in many products, such as ice cream and milkshakes.

Some types of marine algae are considered a nuisance. Fish tank owners, for example, often take special care to ensure that their tanks do not become overgrown with the organism. This can be done by feeding marine animals properly, installing a quality water purification system, and including organisms that feed on the algae in the tank.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for AllThingsNature and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for AllThingsNature and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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    • Marine algae as seen through a microscope.
      Marine algae as seen through a microscope.
    • Most marine algae consists of red algae, which has 6,000 species.
      By: irisphoto1
      Most marine algae consists of red algae, which has 6,000 species.
    • Marine algae is more commonly known as seaweed.
      By: Vera Kuttelvaserova
      Marine algae is more commonly known as seaweed.
    • A nutrient-rich microorganism typically found in oceans and seas, seaweed has long served as a food for some populations.
      By: Picture Partners
      A nutrient-rich microorganism typically found in oceans and seas, seaweed has long served as a food for some populations.