Wildlife

Vanilla Algae Cone With Sprinkles, Please

laurencia-turtle-manatee.jpgLaurencia algae—manatee and turtle grass

If you like ice cream, well, you probably like algae. Substances called carrageenans extracted from several types of seaweed (a subset of the world’s algae) thicken and stabilize some popular ice creams and give them their gelatinous texture.

Who knew?

Algal extracts are also mainstay ingredients in toothpastes, in shampoos … even in JELL-O. One BioBlitz inventory team was delighted to discover algae right off shore in the muddy waters of Biscayne.

The Collado-Vides team from Miami’s Florida International University began identifying algae at the Biscayne BioBlitz yesterday. Biscayne National Park had no prior documentation on its algae, so anything they found would comprise a new species for the park.

acetabularia.jpgAcetabularia algae blooms derive from a single cell.

Within minutes of the start of the 24-hour inventory, the team had identified six species. They’ve now found 22.

Sometimes algae can harm other plants and animals, as occurs with red tides, or when algae overgrow a coral reef.

batophora.jpgBatophora algae provide habitat for small invertebrate larvae.

The algae identified at Biscayne over the last few days support other marine life, anchoring coral larvae, generating oxygen, and more. Learn more about them on the NatGeo News Watch blog.

Photos by Alex Perez, Collado-Vides Team, Florida International University

Amy Bucci is a web producer for National Geographic. Her projects mainly cover National Geographic explorers, grantees and initiatives.

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