Sargassum
Overview
 
Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) macroalga (seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

) in the order Fucales
Fucales
Fucales is an order in the brown algae . Members of this order are fucoids. The list of families in Fucales, as well as additional taxonomic information on algae, is publicly accessible at Algaebase....

. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

s of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs. However, the genus may be best known for its planktonic (free-floating) species. While most species within the class Phaeophyceae are predominantly cold water organisms that benefit from nutrients upwelling, genus Sargassum appears to be an exception to this general rule.
Encyclopedia
Sargassum is a genus of brown (class Phaeophyceae) macroalga (seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

) in the order Fucales
Fucales
Fucales is an order in the brown algae . Members of this order are fucoids. The list of families in Fucales, as well as additional taxonomic information on algae, is publicly accessible at Algaebase....

. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical ocean
Ocean
An ocean is a major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.More than half of this area is over 3,000...

s of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs. However, the genus may be best known for its planktonic (free-floating) species. While most species within the class Phaeophyceae are predominantly cold water organisms that benefit from nutrients upwelling, genus Sargassum appears to be an exception to this general rule. Any number of the normally benthic species may take on a planktonic, often pelagic existence after being removed from reefs during rough weather. However, two species (S. natans and S. fluitans) have become holopelagic — reproducing vegetatively and never attaching to the seafloor during their lifecycle. The Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

's Sargasso Sea
Sargasso Sea
The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This...

 was named after the algae, as it hosts a large amount of Sargassum.

Description

Species of this genus of algae
Algae
Algae are a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms, such as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length. They are photosynthetic like plants, and "simple" because their tissues are not organized into the many...

 may grow to a length of several metres. They are generally brown or dark green in color and consist of a holdfast
Holdfast
A holdfast is a root-like structure that anchors aquatic sessile organisms, such as seaweed, other sessile algae, stalked crinoids, benthic cnidarians, and sponges, to the substrate. ...

, a stipe
Stipe (botany)
In botany, a stipe is a stalk that supports some other structure. The precise meaning is different depending on which taxonomic group is being described....

, and a frond
Frond
The term frond refers to a large, divided leaf. In both common usage and botanical nomenclature, the leaves of ferns are referred to as fronds and some botanists restrict the term to this group...

. Oogonia and antheridia occur in conceptacles embedded in receptacles on special branches. Some species have berrylike gas-filled bladders which help keep the fronds afloat to promote photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight. Photosynthesis occurs in plants, algae, and many species of bacteria, but not in archaea. Photosynthetic organisms are called photoautotrophs, since they can...

. Many have a rough sticky texture, which together with a robust but flexible body, helps it to withstand strong water currents.

The thick masses of Sargassum provide an environment for a distinctive and specialised group of marine animals and plants, many of which are not found elsewhere.

Sargassum is commonly found in the beach drift near Sargassum beds where they are also known as gulfweed, a term also used to include all seaweed species washed up on shore.

Sargassum species are found throughout tropical areas of the world and are often the most obvious macrophyte in near-shore areas where Sargassum beds often occur near coral reef
Coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...

s. The plants grow subtidally and attach to coral, rocks or shells in moderately exposed or sheltered rocky or pebble areas. In some cases (e.g., the Sargasso Sea
Sargasso Sea
The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This...

) there are floating populations of Sargassum.

Sargassum muticum

Sargassum muticum
Sargassum muticum
Sargassum muticum is a large brown seaweed of the genus Sargassum. It grows attached to rocks by a perennial holdfast up to 5 cm in diameter. From this holdfast the main axis grows to a maximum of 5 cm high. The leaf-like laminae and primary lateral branches grow from this stipe...

is a large brown seaweed of the class Phaeophyceae. It grows attached to rocks by a perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 holdfast
Holdfast
A holdfast is a root-like structure that anchors aquatic sessile organisms, such as seaweed, other sessile algae, stalked crinoids, benthic cnidarians, and sponges, to the substrate. ...

 up to 5 cm in diameter. From this holdfast the main axis grows to a maximum of 5 cm high. The leaf-like laminae and primary lateral branches grow from this stipe. In warm waters it can grow to 12 m long, however in British waters it gives rise to a single main axis with secondary and tertiary branches which are shed annually. Numerous small 2–6 mm stalked air vesicles provide buoyancy. The reproductive receptacles are also stalked and develop in the axils of leafy laminae. It is self fertile.

History

Sargassum was named by the Portuguese sailors who found it in the Sargasso Sea
Sargasso Sea
The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This...

 after a species of rock rose (Helianthemum
Helianthemum
Helianthemum , known as rock rose, sunroses, or rushrose, is a genus of about 110 species of evergreen or semi-evergreen subshrubs in the family Cistaceae...

) that grew in their water wells at home and that was called sargaço in Portuguese.

The Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

 and its smaller islands are well known for their high levels of Sargassum covering their shores. Gulfweed was observed by Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

. Although it was formerly thought to cover the entirety of the Sargasso Sea, making navigation impossible, it has since been found to occur only in drifts.

Sargassum is also cultivated and cleaned for use as an herbal remedy. Many Chinese herbalists prescribe powdered Sargassum in paper packets of 0.5 gm, to be dissolved in warm water and drunk as a tea. It is said to remove excess phlegm
Phlegm
Phlegm is a liquid secreted by the mucous membranes of mammalians. Its definition is limited to the mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that from the nasal passages, and particularly that which is expelled by coughing . Phlegm is in essence a water-based gel consisting of...

. When sold in this application it is commonly referred to as Seaweed Sargassum Tea.

Further reading

  • Critchley, A.T., Farnham, W.F. and Morrell, S.L. 1983. A chronology of new European sites of attachment for the invasive brown alga, Sargassum muticum, 1973 - 1981. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
    Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
    The Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom is a scientific journal published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom....

    , 63: 799 - 811.
  • Boaden, P.J.S. 1995. The adventive seaweed Sargassum muticum (Yendo) Fensholt in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. Ir. Nat. J. 25 111 - 113.
  • Davison, D.M. 1999. Sargassum muticum in Strangford Lough, 1995–1998; a review of the introduction and colonisation of Strangford Lough MNR and cSAC by the invasive brown alga Sargassum muticum. Environment and Heritage Service Research and Development Series. No.99/27 ISSN 1367 - 1979.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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