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Title: Prasinophyceae  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Chlorophyta, Picoeukaryote, List of eukaryotic picoplankton species, Plankton, Compsopogonophyceae
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The Prasinophytes are a class of unicellular [3] One well known genus is Ostreococcus, considered to be the smallest (ca. 0.95 μm) free-living eukaryote,[4] found in marine waters world wide. Prasinophytes have simple cellular structures, containing a single chloroplast and a single mitochondrion. The genomes are relatively small compared to other eukaryotes (about 12 Mbp for Ostreococcus[5][6] and 21 Mbp for Micromonas[7]).

Recent studies agree that the prasinophytes are a non-evolutionary grouping (paraphyletic) of chlorophyte green algae from different clades. Alternative classifications of the chlorophytes have been proposed in which this class is replaced by at least six separate taxa.[8]


A study of photosynthetic gene-sequence diversity (rbcL) in the Gulf of Mexico indicated that Prasinophytes are particularly prevalent at the Subsurface Chlorophyll Maximum (SCM)[9] and several different ecotypes of Ostreococcus have been detected in the environment.[10] These ecotypes were thought to be distinguished in the environment by their adaptation to light intensities. O. lucimarinus was isolated from a high-light environment[11] and observed year-round in the coastal North Pacific Ocean.[12] RCC141 was considered low-light, because it was isolated from the lower euphotic zone. These strains, or ecotypes, were later shown to live in different habitats (open-ocean or mesotrophic) and their distributions do not appear to be connected to light availability.[13] O. tauri was isolated from a coastal lagoon and appears to be light-polyvalent. Genetic data indicates that distinct molecular differences exist between the different ecotypes that have been detected.[14]


Recent studies agree that the prasinophytes are not a natural group, being highly paraphyletic.[8][15][3][16] Relationships among the groups making up the Chlorophyta are not fully resolved. The cladogram produced by Leliaert et al. 2011[3] is shown below. The blue shaded groups are or have traditionally been placed in the Prasionophyceae[2]). The species Mesostigma viride has been shown to be a member of the Streptophyta rather than the Chlorophyta.







"CCMP1205 clade"

Picocystis clade ("prasinophyte clade VII")

Pyramimonadales ("prasinophyte clade I")

Mamiellales ("prasinophyte clade II")



Pycnococcaceae ("prasinophyte clade V")

Nephroselmidophyceae ("prasinophyte clade III")

Prasinococcales ("prasinophyte clade VI")









Land plants


  1. ^ Guiry, M.D. & Guiry, G.M. (2007). "Class: Prasinophyceae taxonomy browser". AlgaeBase version 4.2 World-wide electronic publication, National University of Ireland, Galway. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  2. ^ a b c Sym, S. D. and Pienaar, R. N. 1993. The class Prasinophyceae. In Round, F. E. and Chapman, D. J. (Eds) Progress in Phycological Research, Vol. 9. Biopress Ltd., Bristol, pp. 281-376.
  3. ^ a b c d Leliaert, Frederik; Verbruggen, Heroen; Zechman, Frederick W. (2011). "Into the deep: New discoveries at the base of the green plant phylogeny". BioEssays 33 (9): 683–692.  
  4. ^ Courties C, Vaquer A, Troussellier M, Lautier J, Chrétiennot-Dinet MJ, Neveux J, Machado C, Claustre H (1994). "Smallest eukaryotic organism". Nature 370 (6487): 255.  
  5. ^ Derelle E, et al. (2006). "Genome analysis of the smallest free-living eukaryote Ostreococcus tauri unveils many unique features". PNAS 103 (31): 11647–52.  
  6. ^ Palenik, Brian, et al. The tiny eukaryote Ostreococcus provides genomic insights into the paradox of plankton speciation. 2007 PNAS 104:18:7705-7710.
  7. ^ Worden AZ, et al. (2009). "Green evolution and dynamic adaptations revealed by genomes of the marine picoeukaryotes Micromonas". Science 324 (5924): 268–272.  
  8. ^ a b Lewis, Louise A. & McCourt, R.M. (2004). "Green algae and the origin of land plants". Am. J. Bot. 91 (10): 1535–1556.  
  9. ^ Wawrik B, Paul JH, Campbell L, Griffin D, Houchin L, Fuentes-Ortega A, Müller-Karger F (2003). "Vertical Structure of the Phytoplankton Community Associated with a Coastal Plume in the Gulf of Mexico". Marine Ecology Progress Series 251: 87–101.  
  10. ^ Guillou L, Eikrem W, Chrétiennot-Dinnet MJ, Le Gall F, Massana R, Romari K, Pedros-Alio C, Vaulot D (2004). "Diversity of picoplanktonic Prasinophyceae assessed by direct SSU rDNA sequencing of environmental samples and novel isolates retrieved from oceanic and coastal marine ecosystems". Protist 155 (2): 193–214.  
  11. ^ Worden AZ, Nolan JK, Palenik B (2004). "Assessing the dynamics and ecology of marine picophytoplankton: The importance of the eukaryotic component". Limnology and Oceanography 49 (1): 168–179.  
  12. ^ Worden AZ (2006). "Picoeukaryote diversity in coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean". Aquatic Microbial Ecology 43 (2): 165–175.  
  13. ^ Demir-Hilton E, Sudek S, Cuvelier ML, Gentemann CL, Zehr JP, Worden AZ (2011). "Global distribution patterns of distinct clades of the photosynthetic picoeukaryote Ostreococcus". ISME Journal 5 (7): 1095–1107.  
  14. ^ Rodríguez F, Derelle E, Guillou L, Le Gall F, Vaulot D, Moreau H (2005). "Ecotype diversity in the marine picoeukaryote Ostreococcus (Chlorophyta, Prasinophyceae)". Environmental Microbiology 7 (6): 853–859.  
  15. ^ Becker, B. & Marin, B. (2009). "Streptophyte algae and the origin of embryophytes". Annals of Botany 103 (7): 999–1004.  
  16. ^ Marin, Birger (2012). "Nested in the Chlorellales or Independent Class? Phylogeny and Classification of the Pedinophyceae (Viridiplantae) Revealed by Molecular Phylogenetic Analyses of Complete Nuclear and Plastid-encoded rRNA Operons". Protist 163: 778–805.  

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